BY: MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
A huge part of all of our lives is about to die on Tuesday night and after ten sleep-deprived months in the gutter across more than 20 states I just might miss it. Not least of all because this election season has brought such potent surrealism into the world of politics that it’s managed to shield the more fragile part of our minds against the idea that in the aftermath of this terrible binge we’re all going to have to face the consequences. At long last, the fun part is over and whoever comes out on top is going to have to step into the light and take an international walk of shame to explain what we were all just forced to witness.
It’s a uniquely American delusion to say that, “the eyes of the world are upon us and everyone is waiting to see what we are going to do.” Under any other circumstances the world might shrug and assume that they had experienced another hapless bout of American exceptionalism. But in this particular case, the exceptionalists were right. International eyes have been all over this race from the moment Donald Trump slid down that escalator to the news media’s sudden realisation that we’ve created a monster and now we have to kill it!
This two-year parade of curiosities has unwound honest professionals in a way that only the fear of a Donald Trump presidency can. Despite the fact that nearly every major poll is expecting a Clinton victory that fear is still very much alive. It sent Michael Moore deep into Trump territory to try his hand at standup comedy and caused reporters to turn on each other over polling numbers. With just a couple days left, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver was sent into a Tweet-rage when the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim called him a bullshit artist for daring to claim that Trump has a 35 percent chance of victory. But polls have been wrong before, and as Bill Maher pointed out in his last minute live-streamed rant via Facebook, no one should feel comfortable because this race is still, “well within the margin of pant-shitting.”
This article is so fucking idiotic and irresponsible. https://t.co/VNp02CvxlI
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 5, 2016
Of the many baseless claims Trump has made, it pains any honest reporter to say that on occasion the Donald hits somewhere near the mark. America does pay more to NATO than any other member, Clinton does want to accept more refugees, but the tone and hype with which he makes these claims is that of someone who has overheard everything he knows in his neighbour’s garage twelve-beers-deep on a weekday. It’s this tone that most reporters and politicians are afraid of having to deal with for the next four years, but in the end, Democrats will survive a Trump presidency just as they reluctantly survived eight years of Bush.
Clinton is the safer choice. After all, Trump has been a blinding caricature of everything you don’t want in a president, and it would appear that there is no other reasonable option on Tuesday. But there is also something to be said for the fact that in a race between a reality television star and a former Secretary of State, it should not have been this difficult for Hillary. To be sure, sexism has played a role, and particularly on the side of Trump voters. But a Washington Post poll in September found that, among her own supporters, only 33 percent said they were enthusiastic about their candidate.
The Clintons are simply scandal prone and even among their most minor offences both Bill and Hillary have a tendency to lie about the little stuff. It may not be a disqualifying factor, but there’s been no shortage of mud, smoke and mirrors thrown on both sides and in the back of our minds we know that it’s only a matter of time before another scandal surfaces and a Clinton aide is sent running through the halls of the West Wing screaming, “the Russians are coming!” But in the end, Republicans will survive a Hillary presidency just as they reluctantly survived eight years of Bill.
Reporters everywhere have had the opportunity to look behind the scenes and for all the differences between the two candidates, the few ways in which they’re similar ought to be a real cause to sound the alarm. From barricades to severely limited access and t-shirts that read, “Rope, Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required” reporters on the trail have been confronted with enough obstacles to understand that if honest reporting and solid information are important in a democracy then democracy is in serious danger.
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A man wears a shirt reading "Rope. Tree. Journalist." as supporters gather to rally with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a cargo hangar at Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst #media #reuters #reutersphotos #trump #uselection #minnesota
A survey conducted by Politico in June showed an inside look into the future of just how much decent reporting we can expect.
“Our ability to speak with voters at Trump rallies is constantly infringed, representing a gross obstruction to our duties as journalists.” Candace Smith of ABC News told Politico.
And the other side doesn’t look any better.
David Martosko of the Daily Mail noted his frustration with what has become the routine mode of operation on the Clinton side as well. “It’s hard to top the Hillary Clinton campaign’s use of a rope to physically restrain reporters as they walked along a parade route. Heaven forbid someone actually might get close enough to her to shout a question.”
The volatile language Trump has used against the reporters encourages a brand of politics in which facts are substituted for emotion, while Hillary Clinton in preserving Obama’s legacy would continue the hostile environment toward reporters that has been built over the last eight years.
Of all groundless allegations that were thrown in president Obama’s direction, one thing he could seriously be accused of is breaking his promise to be the most transparent president in American history while giving the country the most closed administration since Richard Nixon.
In a Committee to Protect Journalists report by the former executive editor of The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr. it was found that,
“Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations.”
The report also stated that, for doing their jobs, White House reporters could be forced to take lie-detector tests and have their phone records and e-mails investigated. As a result, stories like the widely criticised drone program have stayed out of the news and reporters have been reduced to speculative junk and opinion that has given rise to pundits and mudslingers who excited the more radical elements of the Republican Party and made a Trump presidency possible.
This same level of obstruction has been seen by all reporters during this campaign in a blanket moratorium on truthful reporting. From the banning of journalists at Trump rallies to a nearly year long wait for a press conference from an historic candidate. Like other candidates before them, Clinton and Trump have faced a constant bombardment and probing into their personal lives, some of which has been unjustified and overly invasive. But both candidates have treated even the most honest journalists with contempt and both would continue to do so as president.
For the most part, Wednesday morning will feel like any other day in November. Voters will look at their country with a sense of relief or lament and finally be allowed to go about their day as the greatest show on Earth comes to an end. Any real change will take some time to feel, but regardless of who wins, reporters everywhere would be wise to look to inauguration day in January and remember the words of the great American journalist H.L. Mencken: “The only way a reporter should look at a politician is down.”