Mainstream media in the U.S. have played a pivotal role in keeping this democracy upright while it transitions back to health. A few notable observations include:
(1) Media are focusing on electoral process conventions rather than speculative scenarios. When convention is held by authoritarians (in media or government), it must be challenged because it reproduces and props up state-level power-stealing and hoarding practices, which become authoritarian norms over time.
But, when convention (media or government) is employed on behalf of sharing power with all the people, conventional state-level democratic practices work in service of strengthening American democratic (power-sharing) norms. Media’s focus on our conventional democratic tabulation and transition processes creates momentum for that narrative, overwhelming competing non-substantiated narratives.
Media have focused on the count and not the “chaos.” All of the major mainstream outlets lead with the numbers, authoritatively. Except for a few outliers who’ve emphasized the few moments of drama and “violence,” mainstream U.S. media have shown real discipline and restraint.
Media highlighted how state-level democracy is working. Rather than focusing on the threat of an authoritarian regime — which simply functions to help construct the actuality of realizing the threat — media have focused on the promise of democracy, narrating its actuality instead. With authority, they have embodied democratic media conventions, which share power with all the people by being open, transparent, and accurate.
Talking heads are being extremely mindful in their analysis. Most analysts have been careful to avoid devoting time to responding to conspiracy theories, election “fraud” accusations, and 45th temper-tantrums. Sidestepping the distractions, many analysts are constructing the actuality of the democratic narrative, the one where our systems and processes are working to share power.
Mainstream media have shifted the burden of democratic action. Now that the ballot count is clearly in the Democrat’s favor, media have turned toward expectation of another democratic convention: with the AP’s announcement, it will be up to the 46th to accept the victory and the 45th to concede. Our continued focus in that direction will overwhelm the noise and bluster and raging.
We all now need to avoid crowing about victory or grabbing the coming moment for our self-interest or profit. We democratic Americans have been given a second chance in this election. We will not waste it. We will honor it by focusing on repairing the health of our democracy and by repairing our relations with one another. We all have to contribute to the overall good of our country.
Let’s all also avoid staying in resentments and anger. We know who the other half of the country are now. They have been lied to and exploited by a master con, and many live in environments where their fear is stoked and justified for them. We will have to address the still growing cultural conditions that allowed that to happen if we are to heal. In the meantime, let’s turn toward and embrace the possibilities of a new world.
We now need to rebuild our democracy around those who would cast their vote for a white supremacist, a bully, a rapist, a liar, a thief, and a cheat. They are not going away. Democratic cultural work needs to be a priority now to create the enabling conditions necessary to support the health of our democracy going forward.