The Nation Midterms Panel: Media Mistakes Are ‘In Favor of Republican Narratives’

by | Nov 11, 2022 | News

On November 9, The Nation hosted a live online discussion to unpack the midterm elections, which took place on November 8. Joining the panel were journalists for the outlet Joan Walsh, Elie Mystal, Chris Lehmann, and John Nichols.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of the magazine, introduced the event saying, “Last night was no ‘red wave.’” Nor was it a blue wave, she added, but it was hopeful, and staying up to see Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman’s win “was an extraordinary moment.”

Moderating the panel was editor D.D. Guttenplan, who shared vanden Heuvel’s cautious celebration, saying “yesterday afternoon Katrina and I were discussing how dark a cover we could manage next issue. So, it’s a great pleasure not to have to follow that through.”

Guttenplan opened the discussion to panelists by asking who the previous night’s big loser was. Ellie Mystal hollered in response, “Donald Trump!” and John Nichols followed, “I think that’s too easy, Don, too easy.”

National affairs correspondent for The Nation and CNN political contributor Joan Walsh said on winners and losers that Arizona Republicans Kari Lake, the gubernatorial candidate, and Blake Masters, who is running for Senator, “are two of the most hideous people in the country who have ever graced our political scene.” Walsh said that, while the races were still being called, she was relieved to see Democrat Katie Hobbs pulling ahead for governor.

Chris Lehmann, who is the D.C. Bureau chief for The Nation and a contributing editor at The Baffler, said, “Far from being a red wave or trickle, it’s almost always the case in midterm years that the out-party, that doesn’t hold the White House, gains significantly. That is not happening this year.” He remarked that the election, as expected, was a referendum on Trump. And while he was skeptical of Democrats’ closing message that democracy was on the ballot, “I think in retrospect that had some real traction.”

Guttenplan and Lehmann agreed that the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that revoked the constitutional right to abortion led to a mobilization behind reproductive rights, and a significant win for Democrats.

Tallying losses, The Nation’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal said, “In addition to the orange MAGA loser, I really think that the mainstream media in general, and the corporate media Beltway, and New York Media specifically, like: huge L. Y’all got it wrong again.” The media also managed to do it “in such a way as to do nothing but freak people out for six months, knowing absolutely nothing. I swear to God I never want to see another poll for as long as I live.”

Mystal said corporate media needs to consider “not only why it keeps getting things wrong, but why it keeps getting things wrong in favor of Republican narratives.” But rather than self-reflecting, media is already moving on to paint Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as the next big threat.

But despite his success in the state’s gubernatorial race, DeSantis came out as one of John Nichols’ big losers. The national affairs correspondent explained that “he has now become the face of the Republican establishment. And the Donald Trump wing, which is the dominant wing in the party in most of the country, will be out to get him.”

On the other hand, Nichols said Barack Obama signaled himself to be the Democratic party’s best communicator. “He put the issue of Social Security the table … and I genuinely think that when we look honestly at a lot of these close races, I think we have to accept that Obama did something major there, and it was an intervention of great consequence.”


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