The New York Times Forgot it Peddled a ‘Red Wave’ that Never Came

by | Nov 11, 2022 | News

Ahead of the midterm elections, exhaustive mainstream coverage from outlets including the New York Times cited polls and predictions claiming a “red wave” would beat out Democrats for control of key states and seats. Instead, Democrats came away with several wins, while the House and Senate remain contested.

In the wake of this red “trickle,” the Times has trampled past recognition of its inaccurate predictions, instead deflecting blame and doubling down on irresponsible election coverage.

The outlet has been content to obscure its role in hyping up GOP performance, in one piece merely stating, “All indications were that [Republicans] would end up at best with one of the weakest performances in decades by the out-of-power party against a first-term president’s party.” As Glenn Fleishman pointed out on Twitter, the paper failed to reflect on the origin of said “indications.”

Another news update observed “No Signs of ‘Red Wave’ That Republicans Expected.” Again the Times omitted its involvement in this expectation, such that Markos Moulitsas likened its inability to accept responsibility to that of a toddler.

Guest essayist Thomas B. Edsall spoke to Republicans’ advertising campaign focusing on crime and social disorder under the obstinate headline, “For Republicans, Crime Pays, No Matter What Else Happens.” His piece assured readers that, while crime failed to stoke GOP wins this election, “The issue isn’t going away anytime soon and may well play a major role in 2024.”

Edsall claimed the GOP’s strategy tying Democrats to “defund the police” messages undercut key Democrats, “including many who nonetheless hung on to their seats.” Kevin Gosztola said this amounts to election denialism, and that the issue of crime is relevant “only cause shitty pundits like Edsall won’t stop peddling lies.”

The New York Times, alongside other corporate outlets, heralded Democrats’ demise weeks before the midterms. Its October 19 headline “Democrats’ Feared Red October Has Arrived” aimed to explain why Democrats would lose badly three weeks hence. It cited too much focus on reproductive rights as the reason, while a later piece used Super PAC spending data to conclude that Democrats have nearly given up on Republican territory.

Ultimately, as Popular Information’s Judd Legum wrote, “Prediction-based coverage comes at a high cost because it crowds out the coverage that voters actually need. To make an informed decision, voters need to know the practical impact of voting for each candidate.” The New York Times’ failure to recognize its mistakes betrays a troubling trend for election coverage as a support for democracy.


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