E.J. Dionne Symbolizes 'Media Too Thirsty for a Narrative Shift on Trump'

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne seems to be the personification of what the Columbia Journalism Review meant when its writer Jon Alsop noted on November 9 that Media too thirsty for a narrative shift on Trump. Alsop pointed out that the liberal media, desperate for a win against President Donald Trump, have latched onto last Tuesday's election results as confirmation of their urgent hopes. Perhaps none was more thirsty for such a narrative shift than laughably failed prognosticator E.J. Dionne as we shall see. 

First, Alsop revealed how this desperate thirst for a narrative shift has affected MSM coverage of the recent elections:

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MUCH OF THE MAINSTREAM PRESS hailed Tuesday’s Democratic wins in Virginia, New Jersey, and beyond as an explicit biteback at Donald Trump. In a cycle flush with stories about the anniversary of Trump’s election win, parts of the press seemed intent on casting Republican setbacks as a narrative shift.

Ralph Northam’s comfortable win in the Virginia governor’s race was the crest of a progressive wave, they said—The New York Times heralded a “first, forceful rebuke of Trump and his party,” The Washington Post called it “nothing less than a stinging repudiation of Trump,” and The New Yorker described it as “a turn in national politics.”

But sweeping conclusions about the frailty of Trump and the resurgence of the Democratic Party are premature. These were local elections settled by local dynamics—and while Trump was a factor, it’s impossible to divine a uniform “Trump effect” across states. Editors and observers interviewed by CJR paint a more complex picture than a Trump slump: The president was one consideration in elections that hinged on state-specific issues and personalities, filtered through particular demographics that don’t perfectly reflect the country as a whole.

Killjoy! Why can't you allow them to enjoy what they perceive to be the end of Trump:

The problem is more that mainstream news outlets have extrapolated national significance from states that don’t reflect the full complexity of an increasingly divided country. New Jersey has a long record of electing gubernatorial candidates from the opposite party to the president. Virginia, meanwhile, has been leaning blue for some time and was the only Southern state not to vote for Trump last year. It’s highly questionable it can still be classed as a “swing state,” and it’s certainly not a “bellwether” of the national political picture, as The Guardian suggested.

I guess the conclusion is extrapolate they must if it leads to the desired fantasy of the termination of the Trumpocalypse:

Outlets like CNN and FiveThirtyEight have already cast yesterday’s victories for Democrats as a huge boost to their 2018 midterm prospects, albeit with some caveats. The analysis might end up being right. But if the media’s failure to predict Trump’s win last year was attributable, in part, to treating states in isolation and not as movable parts in a dynamic country, then it should be extra careful to avoid the same mistakes going forward.

A widely echoed New York Times analysis about this week’s elections declared “Trumpism without Trump” to be “a losing formula.” Even leaving aside the fact Moore won on a Trumpian platform in Alabama without the president’s personal endorsement, this sort of take is flawed. The media can’t conclude, in the same breath, that the results in Virginia and New Jersey were both a direct rebuke to Trump and a reflection of his absence from those races. As CNBC senior columnist Jake Novak says in an interview with CJR, “It’s time for everyone to understand that Trump and the Republican Party are two different things.”

Parts of the media, especially left-leaning outlets like Vice, framed the run-up to Tuesday’s elections as a first test for the anti-Trump “resistance,” gambling that this had the makings of what Cain at the Richmond Times-Dispatch calls a “Beach Boys election—catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.” The results seemed to confirm that preordained narrative, giving it extra potency.

Perhaps none have latched onto that preordained narrative more firmly than E.J. Dionne who the day after the Tuesday elections joyously proclaimed unto all the world that Democrats, Republicans, take note: A new era has begun:

Tuesday’s Democratic sweep obliterated a series of outdated story lines in American politics and opened a new era.

Forget those repetitious tales about some piece of President Trump’s base still sticking with him. It’s now clear, from Virginia and New Jersey to Washington state, Georgia, New York, Connecticut and Maine, that the energy Trump has unleashed among those who loathe him has the potential to realign the country.

The skies were bluer, the waters suddenly sparkled, and the very air we breathed was cleaner. It was the opening of a new era! Remember when it was thought that Obama would part the seas and all that? Fun times.

Yes, we must be entering a new Trump-free era because the mighty pundit Dionne has pronounced it so. Any of you who dare doubt his powers of prognostication should read his April 3, 2016 declaration that This time it really is the end of Trump. Really:

It’s time to go back to where we began: not only that Donald Trump will lose the Republican presidential nomination, but also that he could be so weakened by the end of the primaries that his party will not even have to worry about choosing someone else.

So how did that narrative work out, E.J.?


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Campaigns & Elections Columbia Journalism Review E. J. Dionne Donald Trump