By:
September 19, 2022

We are now less than two months away from the midterm elections. Just over seven weeks to be exact. And while every election seems pivotal to the future of our country, that narrative seems especially true this time.

It does not feel like hyperbole to say that our democracy is hanging in the balance.

With that in mind, I’d like to point out several pieces of journalism published over the weekend that addressed what’s at stake.

First, the latest column from USA Today columnist Jill Lawrence: “If you care about your country and your rights, don’t vote for any Republicans in 2022.”

Lawrence writes, “It pains me to say this, but if you care about your rights and country, don’t vote for any Republicans in 2022 – even the officeholders who have stood up to Trump and the newcomers who pitch themselves as reality-based. All that counts is the R after their name. Their party is on a dark path and can’t be trusted to control any level of government.”

Extreme? Perhaps.

But, David Leonhardt’s latest piece for The New York Times is a thorough deep dive: “‘A Crisis Coming’: The Twin Threats to American Democracy.” Leonhardt sees two distinct threats.

Leonhardt writes, “The first threat is acute: a growing movement inside one of the country’s two major parties — the Republican Party — to refuse to accept defeat in an election.”

He then writes, “The second threat to democracy is chronic but also growing: The power to set government policy is becoming increasingly disconnected from public opinion.”

Leonhardt’s piece is a rather lengthy one, looking at the threats, how they were born, how they manifest themselves and what the consequences might be. It ends with this ominous passage: “The makeup of the federal government reflects public opinion less closely than it once did. And the chance of a true constitutional crisis — in which the rightful winner of an election cannot take office — has risen substantially. That combination shows that American democracy has never faced a threat quite like the current one.”

And as you consider Leonardt’s story, also check out this article from The New York Times’ Reid J. Epstein: “Echoing Trump, These Republicans Won’t Promise to Accept 2022 Results.”

Epstein writes, “When asked, six Trump-backed Republican nominees for governor and the Senate in midterm battlegrounds would not commit to accepting this year’s election results, and another five Republicans ignored or declined to answer a question about embracing the November outcome.”

Epstein adds, “The New York Times contacted Republican and Democratic candidates or their aides in 20 key contests for governor and the Senate. All of the Democrats said, or have said publicly, that they would respect the November results — including Stacey Abrams of Georgia, who refused to concede her 2018 defeat to Brian Kemp in the state’s race for governor. Mr. Kemp, now running against her for another term, ‘will of course accept the outcome of the 2022 election,’ said his press secretary, Tate Mitchell. But several Republicans endorsed by Mr. Trump are hesitant to say that they will not fight the results.”

The Washington Post had a similar warning. The Post’s Amy Gardner, Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz and Annie Linskey wrote a story with this headline, “Republicans in key battleground races refuse to say they will accept results.”

The Post writers wrote, “In a survey by The Washington Post of 19 of the most closely watched statewide races in the country, the contrast between Republican and Democratic candidates was stark. While seven GOP nominees committed to accepting the outcomes in their contests, 12 either refused to commit or declined to respond. On the Democratic side, 18 said they would accept the outcome and one did not respond to The Post’s survey.”

They add, “The reluctance of many GOP candidates to embrace a long-standing tenet of American democracy shows how Trump’s assault on the integrity of U.S. elections has spread far beyond the 2020 presidential race. This year, multiple losing candidates could refuse to accept their defeats. Trump, who continues to claim without evidence that his loss to Joe Biden in 2020 was rigged, has attacked fellow Republicans who do not agree — making election denialism the price of admission in many GOP primaries. More than half of all Republican nominees for federal and statewide office with powers over election administration have embraced unproven claims that fraud tainted Biden’s win, according to a Washington Post tally.”

Now one more note to be added here, something that came up on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” An NBC poll showed that 58% of Republicans identify with the Republican Party more than they do with Trump (33%). As The New York Times’ Peter Baker pointed out, the 33% number is the lowest since NBC has been doing such a poll.

But, “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd said, “That 33% is more than 50% in a primary electorate and that’s the issue.”

On that topic …

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy speaking with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi on Sunday. (Courtesy: NBC News)

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is retiring after eight terms and is the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate, appeared on Sunday’s “Velshi” on MSNBC and told host Ali Velshi that the Senate is broken.

“The Senate was never perfect, but it was a lot better than it is today,” Leahy said. “Look how it came together after the Nixon resignation, how it came together in so many issues, 9/11, and things like that. Today, you see, even when a mob is attacking the Capitol, people, well, we don’t know if that was a valid election or not. The fact that Joe Biden got 5 million more votes than Donald Trump didn’t seem to sway them.”

Asked if the Senate could heal and return to how it used to be, Leahy said, “If we don’t get it back, we’re in deep trouble in this country. We have seen the Supreme Court become more politicized, and even members of the Supreme Court going out and speaking to political gatherings extolling what they’re doing. That’s wrong. And, obviously, there’s going to be partisan differences. I don’t mind that in the Congress or the presidency. But there have to be underlying things where we come together. And that’s not being done enough. And if it’s not, the country is going to suffer.”

Sunday mornings

It was once a staple among news consumers and media observers: the Sunday morning news shows. We’re talking about NBC’s “Meet the Press,” ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’s “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday.” It used to be appointment viewing, with the most important newsmakers and politicians appearing to put forward their ideas and, at the same time, being fairly but firmly questioned.

But things have changed, mostly because of the guests. In his latest piece — “Can the Sunday morning talk show be saved?” — Washington Post media critic Paul Farhi hits on a major obstacle facing the Sunday shows: getting guests who want to come on.

Farhi writes, “But while the four most highly rated shows still reach a relatively large audience — a combined average of about 9.3 million per week over the past year — there’s not nearly as much clamoring. Producers of the programs acknowledge that they often struggle to book the people who were once regulars in the greenroom on Sunday.”

Farhi correctly notes, “Political leaders now have multiple opportunities to deliver their message — cable-news live hits, podcasts, talk radio, social media — and they don’t have to wait until Sunday.”

And the politicians can do it on friendly shows where they’re unlikely to get much, if any, pushback.

Don’t look for the Sunday shows to disappear, but in the post-pandemic and divisive world, they might need to adjust their strategies to remain relevant.

Another Sunday show

CBS’s “60 Minutes” returned for its 55th season Sunday with an exclusive interview with President Joe Biden. Correspondent Scott Pelley talked to Biden about a variety of topics, including whether or not Biden will run again in 2024.

Biden told Pelley, “Look, my intention as I said to begin with is that I would run again. But it’s just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.”

Check out the entire interview, which includes such topics as Trump, the economy, Ukraine and COVID-19. About COVID-19, Biden said, “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over.”

Hurricane Fiona

Three people inside a house await rescue from the floods caused by Hurricane Fiona in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on Sunday. (AP Photo/Stephanie Rojas)

After growing from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane, Hurricane Fiona slammed into Puerto Rico on Sunday, knocking out power on all of the island. That impacts more than 1.4 million people. Along with the winds gusts in the 100 mph range, devastating rains flooded Puerto Rico. Check out this tweet to see some of the flooding. CNN’s Dakin Andone, Haley Brink and Melissa Alonso reported some areas of the island could receive up to 25 inches of rain.

The Washington Post’s Matthew Cappucci, Jacqueline Alemany and Praveena Somasundaram wrote, “Puerto Rico has a long history of power grid crises and attempts to fix its system. Since Hurricane Maria left the country without power for months in 2017, residents have called on local and federal governments to improve natural disaster response and recovery efforts.”

The New York Times wrote, “The collapse of the electrical grid came five years after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico and knocked out the island’s power. Since then, unreliable electricity has been a mainstay of life on the island, leading to a slow recovery and widespread protests by frustrated residents.”

This will be a story to follow closely in the coming days and, hopefully, media coverage will keep the attention on the well-being of the residents of Puerto Rico.

Farewell to Outlook

Outlook — the print section of commentary and analysis for The Washington Post — published for the final time over the weekend. It was first printed on Dec. 19, 1954. But from now on, the essays and analyses that appeared in Outlook will appear in the Opinions section of the A section and online.

For the Post, Robert G. Kaiser and Steve Luxenberg, both of whom edited the section over the years, wrote a farewell. They wrote, “Today, The Post has nearly 3 million paying subscribers. Fewer than 275,000 take the Sunday edition. This article will be read primarily by that dwindling and aging print audience, as well as online readers who might bump into the story while browsing the internet with their phones, tablets or laptops. Many of The Post’s digital readers don’t know an Outlook section ever existed. They know only the many discrete Outlook articles that went viral. And the unheard voices that Outlook editors were among the first to seek out now crowd the internet, where social media offers instant access to all.”

They added, “The Post now plays in a different league, which requires new strategies. But wherever Post journalism goes next, Outlook’s spirit of inquiry will live on.”

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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