Nothing wrong with a columnist having a strong opinion about whether Trump should be impeached or not. That’s sort of the job.
There is, perhaps, something wrong with a columnist wanting the media to operate as a hive mind in service to that opinion and actively use its influence to convince voters to share it.
Bear in mind that the columnist in question, Margaret Sullivan, used to be the “public editor” (or ombudsman) of the New York Times. The public editor’s job was to provide space for readers’ grievances about the paper’s coverage. That is, if anyone in journalism should be mindful of the fact that the average person doesn’t always — and shouldn’t always — share the media’s outlook, it’s Sullivan. Yet here we are.
Of course, it’s not like the Times’s core readership is a diverse snapshot of the American population. Among the sort of left-leaning educated white men and women who form the paper’s base, opinion on impeachment is uniform. Same goes for WaPo, I’m sure. Go figure that Sullivan would be frustrated that the entirety of U.S. media isn’t doing a better job addressing that readership’s concerns:
If anything, weeks into the House of Representatives’ public impeachment hearings, Americans’ positions seem to have hardened on whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.
So, is the media coverage pointless? Are journalists merely shouting into the void?…
[F]ar too often, [news] broadcasts fall prey to false equivalency: This side said this, and this side said that, and we don’t want to make anyone mad, so we’ve got to cut to a commercial now…
[H]ere’s the thing: There are facts. There is truth. We do live in a country that abides by laws and a Constitution, and nobody ought to be above them.
Despite the hardened positions, some members of the public are still uncertain. Some are persuadable, and yes, it matters.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s the job of American journalism in this moment to get serious about trying to reach these citizens.
It’s not “the job of American journalism” to command the attention of people who aren’t that interested in impeachment and to get them to form the right opinion. The job of American journalism is to gather facts and present them fairly and impartially. Sullivan is intrigued by a recent FiveThirtyEight article suggesting that as many as 12 percent of Americans are Republicans who are persuadable on impeachment, and therefore she’s noodling ways to persuade them. Why, I don’t know: Even if you ceded all 12 percent to the pro-impeachment column, the Senate GOP still isn’t voting to remove Trump. And we’re assuming a lot by assuming that everyone who *says* they’re persuadable really *is* persuadable. FiveThirtyEight notes that there are more self-styled “moderates” in the persuadable group than there are in the group that’s more certain in its view of impeachment. It may be that people who view themselves as moderate also pride themselves on keeping an open mind in all things — so naturally they’d claim that they’re persuadable on something as important as removing the president.
Even though, secretly, they’re pretty firmly for or against.
Here’s what Sullivan’s up against in hoping that the media might somehow magically move public opinion if only it condenses the daily impeachment coverage to movie-trailer-length bites or whatever:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told the House GOP conference Wednesday that he huddled with several senators Tuesday night who told him if Republicans hold the line in the House, they should be able to deliver a unanimous vote against impeachment in the Senate, according to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).
They might not even get Romney. And that’s despite the fact that, apart from Fox, the media coverage of the Ukraine matter has been thorough and relentlessly critical. That’s why Sullivan is left stumbling around for out-of-the-box ideas to reach those somewhat remote, allegedly persuadable voters. The press has thrown everything they’ve got at the story. And yet support for impeaching and/or removing Trump remains a plurality position at best.
Can you imagine the crisis within this industry when this guy gets reelected next year?
Sullivan’s only hope is that John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney surprises everyone by testifying and drops a bombshell about Trump’s guilt. In lieu of an exit question, here’s Pam “Professor Resistance” Karlan at yesterday’s hearing making the case for sending military aid to Ukraine so that we can, uh, fight the Russians over there instead of here. Point one: Although there are merits to teaching Russia a lesson about the costs of expansionism in Ukraine, they’re not coming over here. Point two: Did you ever expect to live to see the day where hard leftists are making the case for funding proxy wars against Moscow?
Thanks to Pamela Karlan for so aptly capturing Democratic elites' delusional, Reaganite, jingoistic Cold Warrior mindset in your claim that we need to arm Ukraine "so they fight the Russians there and we don't have to fight them here" & we remain "that shining city on the hill." pic.twitter.com/C78aNThnUk
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) December 4, 2019