Election Night Coverage Is Toxic and We Should Have Skipped It
In 2020, the last thing we needed was more anxiety.
Imagine this: a landslide. A presidential decision before your nightly double cleanse and treat-yourself sheet mask. Well, that didn't happen, even though multiple news outlets were pushing that specific and highly improbable narrative. But it's 2020. Nothing has been easy this year and there was no reason to believe that Election Night would be any different. We knew that. We knew that there was going to be an unprecedented number of mail-in votes. There was early voting. There was voter suppression. All of that made for a tempest of uncertainty, predictions marked by asterisks, and warnings that there wouldn't be a clear winner. But we couldn't turn it off. I was refreshing FiveThirtyEight over and over, cringing at every update from Fivey Fox and Nate Silver, whose pseudo-calming injections of facts were probably supposed to be reassuring. They weren't.
It didn't help that CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News kept reiterating that results were going to change. Constant reminders of Pennsylvania's mail-in voting procedures, of Florida's flip-flopping, and the importance of the Blue Wall had me updating Twitter, too. Even though we were told to be patient, the instant gratification fostered by Amazon Prime and Netflix created a monster inside me that couldn't take in enough information. Red mirage? Blue shift? I needed, craved evidence of something reassuring. Instead, Nate Silver and Co. turned from friendly commentators to frustration-inducing avatars. I wanted real information. I wasn't getting it — but it wasn't because of CNN and its fellow networks.
By the way, everyone makes mistakes, but during a panic-riddled Election Night, something like this could be stroke-inducing. "Reporting errors?" Like all of us, the New York Times probably needed to take a break.
We all prepared to actually vote with our voting plans, researching propositions and candidates, and encouraging friends and family to get active. We didn't prepare for a night of questions. We wanted answers, but all we had at our disposal was CBD gummies, sleepytime tea, and networks looking for viewers to ooh and aah over their fancy touchscreens, dramatic music, and key race alerts.
Next time — and if democracy manages to survive, there will be a next time — let's all agree to cast our votes and just wait for the final count. You don't have to look for it. The big news will appear on your feed, just alongside all the photos of Shiba Inus, Chris Evans, and Kim Kardashian wearing a naked dress. Let someone else do the heavy lifting. Your cool cousin will undoubtedly post about big news.
Next Election Night, just enjoy those CBD gummies, keep your phone turned down (or practice your Duolingo, you know you've been neglecting it), and just wait it out while you do things you actually enjoy instead of doomscrolling, panic refreshing, and drowning in projections, probabilities, and that stupid fox.