The part everybody got wrong about the California recall race
Sometimes all you can do is chuckle at the predictability of it all. If Gavin Newsom had lost the California recall race, or if he had even come remotely close to losing, every major media outlet would have run headlines about how it spelled doom for the Democrats in the 2022 midterms. But with Newsom having won by about twenty-seven points, the mainstream media was quick to stress that this didn’t mean anything positive for the Democrats in 2022.
We see these kinds of slanted headlines time and again from the media, nearly always insisting that every new development is somehow bad for the Democrats. Even when the Democrats score an obvious victory, the media nearly always downplays it. There’s a reason for this, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the media favoring the Republicans.
These kinds of doomsday headlines exist because of one reason: you. That’s right, you, the liberal activists out there. The media figured out awhile ago that the most effective way to keep conservatives tuned in is to tell them they’re winning, and the most effective way to keep liberals tuned in is to tell them they’re losing. When news outlets tell liberal activists that they’re losing, or they’re going to lose, or the Democrats are blowing it, or the latest good news is actually bad news, those news outlets are rewarded with huge ratings and page views. Given that the media’s revenue is based on ratings and page views, these kinds of doomsday headlines are automatic profit. It’s almost too tempting and easy.
So of course the media is insisting that even though the Republicans lost a race by twenty-seven points that they were very much trying to win, it doesn’t really mean anything bad for the Republicans, or anything good for the Democrats, in the next election. This narrative is obviously, factually, and objectively false. But in order to see how false it is, you have to step back from it. The media knows that as long as it always paints the liberals as losing and the conservatives as winning, both sides will remain tuned in, so long as both sides are too enthralled with what’s on their TV screen to put any thought or logic into it.
The media is what it is, and it won’t change how it does business. The only thing that can change is you. If you find that you’re guilty of automatically watching or clicking every doomsday story the media comes up with about how the Democrats are losing, it might be a good time to reevaluate your media consumption habits.
Media pundits have conditioned many of you to believe that you’re only being “vigilant” if you’re talking about how you’re going to lose, listening to people who are telling you that you’re going to lose, and fretting about how all hope is lost. But that’s the opposite of how you win in politics.
You win by identifying winnable battles and then you fight like you’re going to win. The way you attract people to your side is to tell them you intend to win. Activists are more likely to put in the work required to win if they think they can win. And rank and file types are more likely to bother turning out and vote for their preferred party if they’re told that their party can indeed win. Nowhere in the process of winning does the “we’re gonna lose” mentality play into it; that’s poisonous thinking and it’s contagious.
The media will keep telling you that you’re going to lose, or that you’ve already lost, or that your biggest wins are somehow losses, as long as you keep rewarding the media with ratings and page views whenever they feed you that crap. If you want to stop seeing those false narratives in the media, stop responding to them. Let the media pundits know that you want to hear about what you can do to win, not how everything that happens is somehow a loss. The media will ultimately go wherever the ratings and page views are. Steer your eyeballs and clicks accordingly.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report