Polls, cable news shows let us down once again

By Cecile Wehrmann

By Cecile Wehrmann

What is this now, the third or fourth cycle, where the outcome of an election is only vaguely what polls and pundits predicted?

That’s frustrating, but I’m not sorry that the most extreme predictions didn’t come to pass.

As I wrote last week, I was just looking for an election where people would accept the results. And that, by and large, has also happened to many of the dozens of candidates who will not accept the result of the last presidential election.

Not that there can’t still be some isolated calls for fraud or voter manipulation in crucial races, although last week’s midterm elections were largely undecided, they felt like a return to normalcy. I like normality – and apparently the stock market too!

I saw no reports last week of people camping out outside polling stations with guns, or allegations of voter intimidation on Election Day.

However, if you’ve listened to channels like CNN or MSNBC, you might think you might have to run the gauntlet to cast your vote. Although I knew that would not be the case in Divide County, the thought of intimidation tactics being used in elections in any of these United States did not sound very American to me.

In the meantime, if you had listened to national media like Fox before the election, it would be understandable to expect that after November 8 there would be very few Democrats holding public office.

This so-called “red wave” should swamp every Democrat in every state across the country, just as it did in North Dakota, where unfortunately Democrats can barely field candidates in many counties.

At the national level, however, fewer House seats were swapped at this year’s midterms than at any time in about 30 years. While I really didn’t buy the pre-election red wave narrative, I was surprised to see that we ended up with almost exactly the same balance of power as before — a US House of Representatives with the smallest majority and a US Senate awaiting a runoff in Georgia.

It almost seemed like we could have skipped the entire election and just agreed to keep the status quo.

That’s even more true in North Dakota, where voters have spoken loud and clear that they’re happy with the representation they’ve had in the past, easily re-electing Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Senator John Hoeven — and recreational marijuana held illegally.

If anything has been rejected this election season, I would argue voters refuse to be pigeonholed. Or, and this is probably more likely, polls are grossly inaccurate and partisan networks of all stripes are just driving a narrative.

We all need to remember that a good story requires conflict. It’s a recipe as old as time — if you want to hold an audience, give them a narrative that says “good guys versus bad guys.” Only, these shows, whether right or left, do harm when they present every issue as “us versus them,” especially when they turn neighbors against neighbors.

Cable news shows have certainly given many opinions on how social media has impacted our society, but they need to take a look in the mirror.

The 24-hour cable news cycle, especially before an election, is like the Super Bowl to them. But the stakes in this game are much more serious than a football score.

When I turned on the TV on Thursday last week and heard the hour opening announce “Election Night in America – Sequel,” I quickly found something else to watch.

Yes, I think our nation has been incredibly divided lately. But more than anything, last week’s election gave me hope. I sense a growing recognition that we need to work together. Nobody gets everything they want in an election, but this round should give us all some peace of mind.

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