Today’s pleasant surprise, i.e. the awful Roy Moore losing his bid for Alabama’s open Senate seat, will provide a mountain of grist for political commentators, high, and low, big and small. As well, it will be read with the practiced care, both real and feigned, of gaudily dressed outer-borough tea-leaf readers. Everyone’s going to attempt to augur the implications of this election for 2018.

I don’t plan to join them. If there’s a reality in modern politics, it is that people have short memories, that circumstances of the moment matter. Moreso, reading a broad message into a Republican loss in a deep-red state when the candidate was as singularly heinous as Moore (even if you were disinclined to convict him on the pedo stuff, his unrepentant stream of racist, sexist, homophobic and otherwise appalling rhetoric was more than enough to turn any reasonable person’s stomach) is tantamount to jamming ill-fitting facts into a preferred narrative.

Nevertheless, that’s what will happen, especially in the mainstream liberal press. Be prepared to hear months of chatter from CNN, MSNBC, the Times, and all their cohorts about how this “upset” spells doom for Trump’s agenda and for the Republicans’ control of Congress. Indeed, expect to hear it from the Right as well, for their own reasons.

This “victory” for the Left will be used to validate the Press’s continued abandonment of its proper role in our political system in favor of the newer one it has been slowly morphing towards for the past couple decades. The Fourth Estate is, among other things, supposed to be an important check on the rapacities and improprieties of power and government – no matter which party was in power. Certainly, bias has always been there, but the separation between news and opinion, even if imperfect, was part of the landscape.

No more.

It is quite arguable that the Press, as an institution, has a level of importance as great as the Presidency. And, indeed, it is even more arguable that the Press, as an institution, has a level of importance greater than a particular President.

Unfortunately, the members of the Press have subordinated the importance of the institution to the importance of individuals and the feeding of individual egos. They have replaced the importance of the institution for self-importance. And, in Trump, they have the perfect foil for this continued narcissism. Thus, we have public clashes and name-calling between the current President (a person of enormous importance) and a number of individual news personalities (each of very little importance).

Yesterday’s election will, sadly, convince these people of little importance that they matter a lot more than they do, and they will continue to destroy the credibility of the Fourth Estate. The insufferable-ness of the talking heads on the cable news channels will grow beyond its already insufferable level, as they finally get to take the victory lap they had gleefully planned out for the day after Hillary’s coronation.

If you hated watching TV news before, you’re REALLY gonna hate it now.

As to what it all means for next year’s mid-terms? The real impact will be on the Trump/GOP agenda. The Democratic Party has decided its tactic will be universal opposition to any legislation advanced by the Republicans, so one less vote in the Senate means that the party outliers (both on the conservative and centrist sides) have greater sway and a greater ability to derail initiatives. Without tangible legislative successes, the Republicans will have a harder time defending their majorities (despite the mathematical advantage they have in the 2018 Senate election, where 25 of the 33 seats up for election are currently held by Democrats).

Other than that, the specific facts of the Alabama election should be a giant grain of salt to anyone who thinks they’re a bellwether for 2018. Moore was such a [redacted] that he motivated the opposition to great heights and deterred party loyalists from turning out. And, frankly, I am happy to see it. A Moore victory may have made life easier for the GOP’s legislation in the Senate, but it would have sent a terrible message about the party’s voters (i.e. The Joy Behar Rule). Perhaps, just perhaps, there are enough people out there who haven’t completely gone over to zero-sum tribalism, and perhaps this might result in better candidates in the future.

Still, none of this measured caution about reading too much into this election will deter the news networks from engaging in a chum-driven feeding frenzy. They will see Moore’s loss as a validation of their nakedly partisan tactics, and will continue to conflate news with opinion and punditry. With an unhealthy dollop of smug self-satisfaction on top.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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