Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
Deciding that a national referendum staged thousands of miles away offers deep insight into America’s pending presidential election -- and that Hillary Clinton’s campaign in particular may be damaged by a vote in Europe -- several pundits in recent have days have stressed the Bad News angle for the Democrat.
Reading all kinds of American implications into the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, known as “Brexit,” commentators seemed to be straining in order to stick to their preferred all-news-is-bad-news pattern when covering Clinton.
Meet The Press host Chuck Todd insisted that in the wake of Brexit, Clinton “has to learn a lesson here” because she represents “the establishment.” Or “the status quo,” as The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza suggested during the same segment.
On ABC’s This Week, Greta Van Susteren agreed that the “status quo really needs to be worried” and that Brexit “hurts Secretary Hillary Clinton, because she is going to be pinned with status quo.”
And because Clinton’s such a supposedly stagnant candidate with so little vision, the vote in the U.K. set off “panic” inside “Democratic circles,” according to Time.
But does that framing of the Brexit vote reflect reality? Clinton’s the first woman to ever win a major party’s presidential nomination in American history and her party’s newly drafted platform is the most aggressively progressive in decades, yet the press depicts her as “status quo” and out of touch with voters urging change.
The New York Times seemed to take the lead over the weekend in ringing the Brexit alarm bells for Clinton. On Sunday’s front page, the Times insisted the U.K. outcome casts a “shadow” over Clinton’s White House run, which seems odd since Clinton played no role in the British vote. But the Times was certain the referendum represented the type of outcome she “fears” in November.
According to their friends and advisers, Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton have worried for months that she was out of sync with the mood of the electorate, and that her politically safe messages — like “I’m a progressive who gets results” — were far less compelling to frustrated voters than the “political revolution” of Senator Bernie Sanders or Mr. Trump’s grievance-driven promise to “Make America Great Again.”
Fact: Clinton just defeated Sanders by approximately 3.7 million votes in the Democratic primary, and she leads Trump by 12 points in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. But the Times hypes anonymous concerns her "safe" message isn’t resonating? (What would the polls look like today if Clinton’s message was resonating?) More importantly, since when is the candidate who tallies the most votes depicted as being out of touch with voters?
In a strange attempt to prove its point, the Times noted, “Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump won a combined 25 million votes during the primary season, compared with 16 million for Mrs. Clinton.”
Clinton won more votes than either Sanders or Trump this year. But because combined they tallied more than her that means a referendum in Europe is bad news for her; that she’s “out of step.” That seems illogical.
More Times oddities:
In swing states like Ohio, many Democrats and Republicans yearn for an economic comeback and are not confident that Mrs. Clinton understands their frustrations or has the ideas and wherewithal to deliver the sort of change that could satisfy them.
Democrats in Ohio aren’t sure Clinton “understands” their concerns, even though three months ago Democrats in Ohio selected Clinton as the winner of the state’s primary contest by almost 14 points.
Meanwhile, since when are national votes in foreign countries even considered to be precursors for American elections? Or is the press only leaning on that angle now because pundits think it represents bad news for the Democrat?
If that’s the rubric, journalists ought to be consistent. If votes in foreign countries, and specifically countries that resemble the U.S. population, are deemed to be bellwether events for U.S. presidential elections, shouldn’t the press treat other recent votes as being preludes to U.S. election results?
For instance, what was the lesson Clinton was supposed to have learned from Canada last October when voters there overwhelmingly elected a liberal prime minster? Or did that referendum not matter since the results were in sync with Clinton’s campaign message of inclusion and progress?
If for some reason Clinton had made Brexit a central issue in her American campaign, or if overseas referendums served as well-established indicators for U.S. election results, pundits might be safe in drawing sweeping conclusions about the Democrat’s chances in the wake of the U.K. vote.
Instead, lots of the commentary looks and sounds like a kneejerk attempt to assume big news is bad news for Clinton’s White House hopes.