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Advice | How to cover an abnormal presidential race

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This week I look at the challenge of covering a presidential campaign in which a major political party plans to nominate a felon. I also pick the prominent person of the week and share the best ice cream spots in DC

The United States has never had an election in which: a felon runs for president; a presidential candidate lays out a detailed plan for authoritarian rule; an entire party deceives the public (for example, by claiming the president was behind the state’s persecution of their candidate; by pretending they won the last election); and prominent leaders of one party are signaling they will not accept a negative outcome in the next election. Yet coverage of the 2024 campaign is remarkably unaware, if not unaware, of the unprecedented nature of this election and its implications.

It’s not just criminal and former President Donald Trump and his MAGA cult followers who are being treated with kid gloves by the media. Very few reports in print, online or on TV (other than Jordan Klepper on “The Daily Show”) confront MAGA voters with their pointless, illogical conspiracy theories. (This is not to mock them, but rather to explore how millions have come to believe absurd things and to demonstrate the impossibility of convincing people living on Earth 2.) The reporting of hyped polls maintains the pretense that millions of voters in the MAGA base care about Trump’s opinion. policy. (Asking a MAGA supporter whose health care policies they prefer is absurd.) Political media intent on not offending the Republican Party or its voters end up covering elections that bear little resemblance to the real.

How could reporting be better aligned with reality? Obsession with early polls that inevitably become meaningless after major events like Trump’s conviction (stuff happens!) and that cannot yet estimate who is likely to vote should be set aside – or at least caveated and not receive attention for the reporting.

What would be informative: a minute or two of unedited video showing Trump’s rambling, incoherent, and deranged rants. Rather than merely “fact-checking” the bullshit blizzard, reports can examine the unprecedented nature of his rhetoric, illustrate the deterioration of his thinking and speech, and discuss how a patently irrational and unhinged leader captivates his devoted following.

The media can also refuse to entertain ludicrous MAGA spin, such as the claim that convicting Trump will help him win the election. Opinion polls have never reflected such baseless and illogical nonsense, and – no surprise! – the opposite was true. When such incidents occur, informational journalism would investigate what else MAGA forces lie about (e.g. crowd size) and how authoritarians rely on creating a false aura of invincibility.

When supposedly normal Republican officials parrot Trump’s obvious falsehoods and baseless accusations, interviewers should be prepared to debunk them. Republicans should not ignore hard questions about their election denialism, false data points, baseless attacks on the courts, and hypocrisy (the Law and Order party?). Treating Republicans as innocent bystanders in the wreckage of the democracy train distorts reality.

And instead of endlessly harping on President Biden’s age, an honest comparison between Trump’s rambling, fear-mongering interview responses and Biden’s detailed, policy-laden answers in Time magazine’s two interviews could highlight the clear difference in sharpness clarify. Strained comparisons between the two become farcical as Trump continues to unravel. (Really, what’s the news value of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy badmouthing the president he previously praised?) There’s simply no comparison between Biden, who talks policy in detail, and Trump, who isn’t on a Newsmax conversation can get through. (!) interview without sounding crazy.

Likewise, treating Hunter Biden’s case (which has nothing to do with the president) as if it were as important as Trump’s criminal conviction betrays a lack of perspective and a hunger for clicks. Continuing to harp on this is a problem or an embarrassment for Biden, which is tantamount to amplifying the MAGA spin.

Finally, given voters’ misunderstanding of the economy, news media should focus on the results of Biden’s policies and the likely effect of his opponent’s shocking inflation plan. Focusing on the gap between public opinion and economic reality (to which reporting contributes) unwittingly exposes the media’s own shortcomings in educating voters.

Famous person of the week

Mexico hosted “a groundbreaking match in a country long known for a culture of machismo and rampant violence against women,” as the New York Times put it. President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum is Mexico’s first female president and first Jewish president, and she has a doctorate in energy engineering. (Unfortunately, too much attention is paid to sexist tropes – Tough boss! Not warm and fuzzy! – which a male candidate would never have to deal with.)

Sheinbaum vows to adhere to the center-left economic policies of her mentor, outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. AMLO, as he is known, won praise for measures to reduce poverty and inequality. However, he has been widely criticized for his weakness in curbing cartel violence, which has increased dramatically in recent years. (2023 saw more than 30,000 homicides recorded for the sixth year in a row.) With a record of halving Mexico City’s homicide rate while he was mayor, Sheinbaum promises to do better.

She likely would not have come to power without Mexico’s commitment to gender inclusion and equality. The Post reported last year: “After decades of domination by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, politicians in the 1990s rewrote laws to make elections fairer — and women’s rights activists seized the moment.” The gender quotas first introduced for the Mexican Congress “were gradually expanded, and in 2019 Mexico passed a constitutional amendment that set a goal of gender equality ‘in everything’ – in all races for elected office, and in appointments to senior positions in the judiciary and executive power. branches of government.”

Women have made the difference. “Female lawmakers pushed for a law in 2022 that would mandate social security benefits for domestic workers,” The Post said. “Abortion has been decriminalized in 12 of the 32 states,” thanks to more women in local and regional offices. That said, increased women’s participation in government has not made progress in addressing the epidemic of violence against women.

In short, Sheinbaum’s victory represents both a personal triumph and a victory for a national movement to increase women’s participation in government. Ultimately, her tenure will be judged by her success in tackling crime and cartels, nurturing relations with the United States and achieving climate change goals. In the meantime, one must ask: If Mexico can elect a female president, why can’t the United States?

I grew up hearing that ice cream isn’t really a dessert because it contains milk (egg white!). Anyway, ice cream, gelato and sorbets are one of my essential food groups. With the start of summer, here are a few of my favorite DC ice cream spots:

Malay: The new DC branch of the Indian ice cream brand that caused a sensation in Brooklyn will not disappoint. A stunning array of flavors – ranging from Cardomon Pistachio Crumble to Mango & Cream to Apricot Mace – await you. You’ll find dairy and non-dairy choices, all creamy. But bring a book or friends because you will have to wait in line!

Mount Desert Island ice: This favorite spot in the Mt. Pleasant has many creative flavors (e.g. Blueberry Sour Cream Crumble, Thai Chili Coconut). You’ll even find a dog ice cream treat for your furry companion.

Italian bar: This authentic Italian hangout has my favorite flavor in all of DC: sour cherry gelato. Rich hazelnut and very fruity sorbet are also top notch. On a warm summer day in DC, there’s nothing like sitting on the patio with an Aperol spritz and gelato.

Honey & Friends: This newcomer opened a few doors down from the Politics and Prose Bookstore on Connecticut Avenue NW. Their fruit flavors (e.g. blackcurrant, blueberry, mango sorbet) are particularly strong.

Tomas Sweet: The Georgetown institute offers an extensive range of ice cream, yogurt and fudge. I promise to try something new, but I always end up with my favorite: the delicious peanut butter yogurt.

Every other Wednesday at noon I host a Q&A with readers. Ask a question for the next person.

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