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"Will It Work Though?!?"

How political journalists hide from substance by focussing on process—and why

There are a bunch of important off-year elections tonight—in Virginia, Kentucky, and other states—and I want to hazard one prediction. I have no idea who will win or lose (how could I?!) but I’m pretty certain that the outcomes—of individual races and the overall shift in the balance of power—will feed next-day news coverage of What It All Means. Not, critically, for the country, and its citizens, but for the parties and their standard bearers.


So if Democrats reunify the state legislature in Virginia: A bad omen for Republicans nationally. If Republicans reunify the state legislature in Virginia: All eyes on Glenn Youngkin and his presidential ambitions. Of less interest: Will Virginians lose their reproductive rights?

Or, if Andy Beshear holds the Kentucky governorship, prepare for a few beat sweeteners about The Future Of The Democratic Party™. If he loses, expect: Is The Abortion Backlash Ending? Rather than: How Many Kentuckians Will Lose Their Voting Rights?

This is part of a general preference in political media to cover the machinations of politics rather than the stakes for citizens. Here’s another example, from this week’s episode of Decoding the News.

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Decoding the News
Why mainstream political media misses the mark so often, and how to consume it like a news professional.