Much of the popular media seems to champion the Biden-Harris ticket. Margaret Valenti writes on why that is a problem.
Turning to the DNC after shows on broadcast networks, it would seem as if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the potential foster parents of America, willing to step into the roles of President and Vice President in the midst of an abusive situation. Anchors describe the pair as the saviors of the country, here to offer themselves unselfishly as an alternative to the incompetent incumbent, Donald Trump, who failed the American people. Except, someone needs to remind them that no one cares how nice Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are when there is an election to be won. People want to hear how they are going to move the U.S. forward out of COVID-19 and an economic downturn. The press should inform the public on the policies and changes proposed by the Democratic duo instead of focusing on abstract platitudes.
These platitudes do not inspire confidence in leadership, rather they reveal that popular American media is no longer an objective refuge in the midst of the partisanship and injustice in politics, which only grows under the current administration.
The popular media’s anxieties surrounding this upcoming election are well-founded. Trump treats the collective media, except largely conservative spaces, poorly, and erodes his supporters’ faith in facts that take journalists weeks, months, years to uncover and disclose to the public. Still, there are few notable cases where the press stands up to Donald Trump publicly, and each time that happens it makes headlines.
The press is courageous when they publicly criticize Donald Trump, but what would happen if someone were to publicly criticize Joe Biden or Kamala Harris now, in a big way?
Would the consensus be they were courageous, or inconvenient at a time when so many feel the grips of many existential threats, including the current President who they feel needs removing regardless of many potential consequences in a Biden-Harris administration?
The Democratic Party And The Media, An Alliance
The DNC brought in many speakers who are pro Medicare for All, but Biden only said he will expand the Affordable Care Act and never publicly stated he will make universal health care a priority in his administration. The media fails to bring that fact under scrutiny.
While Harris’ plan is a better pathway to Medicare for All according to Sanders, even she has no current plan to implement universal health care. The media fails to bring that fact under scrutiny.
Why is the DNC promoting a pro Medicare for All narrative while nominating a President and Vice President who do not even support Medicare for All? No writer asks that question in the context of DNC coverage, and that is a problem.
The Democratic Party also now brands itself the party of equality, especially at this year’s DNC, where supposedly everyone, every identity has a voice regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and/or religion. This Presidential election, the media fails to provide context for Joe Biden’s nomination amid the backdrop of equality the Democratic Party made for itself without truly owning all that statement should mean. For example, Joe Biden’s record as a U.S. Senator should trouble anyone.
There is plenty to criticize: he notably played a big role in the creation of the 1994 crime bill, which adversely affected communities of color, especially Black and Indigenous communities, he also voted for the war in Iraq which paved a path for thousands of civilian and U.S. military deaths in the Middle East, and he has a pattern of votes against basic LGBTQIA+ rights.
Other criticisms include his close ties to segregationists in past Senates, former friends of his, that he views as ‘stepping across the aisle to get things done’, his behavior and silence during the Anita Hill hearings, and his vocal exaggeration of the role he played in the Civil Rights movement. Also, no matter how anyone feels about Tara Reade’s allegations, those allegations deserve serious critical consideration and acknowledgment as the country heads into these elections. Still, the media did not bring up any of these issues in the context of the 2020 DNC.
Then, the media, riding alongside the Democratic Party, largely sums up the nomination of Kamala Harris as necessary and historic representation for women, specifically Black, Caribbean, and South Asian — Indian American — women. Representation is important, no one can deny that. Candice Owens, Ben Carson, Kanye West, and Ted Cruz, among others, are members of marginalized communities and their presence is representation, even if many do not agree with their positions on a lot of issues; however, that does not mean their positions and politics, overall, do anything to help the communities they come from.
If the media ignored Betsy DeVos’ role as U.S. Secretary of Education and simply reiterated the importance of involving women in politics, that would eliminate any room for necessary criticism of her Title IX policies, among others. Her Title IX policies effectively strip protections for survivors of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses, which primarily affects college age women.
There was criticism during the Democratic Presidential race, but there should be more, even now, to remind voters of Kamala Harris’ record as a prosecutor, Senator, and as the Attorney General of California. Many of the decisions she made adversely affected marginalized communities. Multiple people call her record anti-Black, a member of the establishment from head to toe (establishments are inherently anti-Black to begin with).
A Return To Objectivity And Critical Questioning
While the media may receive some praise for panning the camera over to the Biden campaign rather than maintaining a constant lens on Donald Trump like they did in 2016 — which many believe is the reason Clinton lost the election — there is a cost, and that cost is objectivity.
Of course, stances change over time, and Biden does not hold a lot of the same views he used to. Harris regrets some of her decisions as Attorney General. However, from that perspective, it is hard to critically analyze anyone, even Donald Trump.
The media must play a role in holding their feet to the fire, and, from the current coverage surrounding the DNC, it does not look like the media has any intention of doing that — except for far-right conservative outlets (though those takes are less criticisms and more xenophobia, racism, and classism).
The media is able to determine outcomes within their borders, especially localized media, and with their cameras, pens, and keyboards on Biden’s side, he has a better chance of winning the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. However, the media’s role is not to sway anyone, it is to report on the political climate accurately and provide necessary context to voters.
No matter how the people vote in November, the media will play a key role and how they cover Biden and Harris now will determine what voters vote for and what they vote against, which is why objective, fact based reporting is always necessary. Let the opinion pieces and the necessary activism fall where they may.
The media just has to question Biden and Harris on their records and teach the public about their policies while acknowledging the potential drawbacks, a sincere level of scrutiny that tens of millions of people across the country already prove they are capable of.
The people cannot make an informed decision as they cast their ballots while the media paints a one-sided picture of the candidates. No matter what happens in November, the media must start accurately reporting on the Biden-Harris ticket, not trying to subtly convince their readers and viewers who to vote for in the midst of an important election because that leaves out important aspects of covering candidates.