Everyone from Finley Peter Dunn to Tip O’Neill has leaned on this thought, usually to steer people away from thinking that what happens in one election someplace might be some mysterious sign of what might happen in another election in another place down the road.
Local conditions, and that is a very difficult phrase to define because there are so many different localities on the political scene, will always define how people vote. Sometimes people get elected because they are liked, or their opponents are hated, or conditions are so bad people cry out for change or who the hell knows?
It’s all that local.
This is why I stopped reading news a couple of days before the elections in New Jersey and Virginia because they were becoming larded with the same kind of bullshit I used to write back when I was one of the gang covering national politics.
We were encouraged to project, generally because if you worked for a newspaper, everyone would know what actually happened long before the broadsheet splashed in whatever puddle developed right in front of your house where the newspaper landed. TV and radio had such a strong competitive advantage that something had to change to make the papers feel, somehow, different!
Instead of just sitting on the reality that was presented at deadline, they became wildly predictive in their assessments and projections about what it all meant. Reality was simply too boring. Polling, that was the thing. You needed to have your own poll to predict what was going to happen just so you, too, could be part of the prediction scene. We have never shifted away from that.
It had a big impact on how we wrote, on what was assigned, on the very nature of the work. A lot of guessing weight was put on the why part of the who, what, when, where and why of daily journalism. It was much more fun to speculate than to be enmeshed in a lot of facts. Speculation is fungible. Facts are not.
Most of that was just bias masquerading as journalism. You would look around for someone to quote who would agree with what you were thinking. I know that sounds crude, but it’s true. There were even services who could dig up academics to spout about anything, any way you needed them to. I feel guilty about all that now because it would have been much better to just stop at the damn speculation and stick to reality.
Which brings us back to that old point. All politics is indeed local, and cyclical, too. We would like to think that the ghost of Trump past floats above the scene and dictates what happens. But it doesn’t. He was scary for sure, but even though lots of fools still think he was grand, he was not. He should be in jail.
But I’m not going to speculate about that. I’m just going to sit with the thought.
President Biden? The conclusion after Tuesday was that a lot of it was his fault because he’s not getting much done, or something like that. He’s being a politician, negotiating his way through the personality pumped muck of Washington to get something done. Somehow.
That’s reality, which I have decided to stick with!