At The Washington Post, Daniel Drezner notes that a lot of gas was wasted last week on the idea that Biden was suddenly losing ground to Trump. This speculation was dashed on the rocks of the latest polls, which show the race tightening only by a hair and Biden still commanding double-digit national leads. Morevoer, he's well ahead in most battleground states. Drezner describes the "tribes" of people who fell for the hype.
There are Trump's own supporters, of course, and the two-faced conservatives who secretly admire him while hedging or nevertrumping in public. Then there are the GenX-ers who grew up in the law 'n' order era and internalized its authoritarian comforts. There are lefties hoping a tighter race will give them more influence, and liberals who have political "PTSD" from 2016.
But he also puts the media itself in the pack:
The media-narrative pushers. Never forget that the most important media bias during an election year is that the media wants a competitive race. And so campaign coverage will always raise the specter of a close race or frame it as such.
For example, consider this Associated Press story titled "Uncertainty dominates presidential campaign's final stretch." The reporters say, "As the candidates move beyond trouble-free conventions and into the final phase of the 2020 election season, both sides acknowledge the contest is tightening." That seems pretty darn definitive!
Except that the story features a lot of claims to this effect by the Trump campaign.
It's true that the media wants a competitive race. But there's a sharpening of this effect that pundits generally don't see: the media business needs Trump to win.
He's been good for the biz for the last four years. Trump traffic saved marginal concerns, including large ones. He helped turn social media from a penny market, where advertising goes to die, into a $200bn cash fire. Every tweet is a headline. The relationship between newsmedia and Trump is blatantly symbiotic.
If Trump loses in November, though, readership at news sites falls as the Trump Show returns to the political sidelines. Advertising revenues will drop too. Reporters will be laid off; social media blatherers, predictors and pundits will be toast unless they're on Cable TV, writing for a major daily newspaper or lifestyling it for the conservative grievance machine. The weird effects of the pandemic on business—more traffic, but lower rates—will subside with the virus and hasten the consequences of all the above.
The short of it is that anyone whose job right now is to pump Trump for traffic is in real trouble when he's gone1. You're already used to marveling as things that used to be newsworthy are now ignored or applied unfairly to one side or the other. You don't even want to think about the desperate newsmaking that denial will permit as 2021 looms.
The many tribes of 2020 election worriers: An ethnographic report [Washington Post]
1. Just in case you were wondering why I dialed back to only 250 Trump posts a day.