That’s the best way to stay sane while watching election returns Tuesday night — or rather, the returns that begin on Tuesday night. Don’t get antsy if everything isn’t decided then. Whether it’s Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the presidential election or a slew of other contests on the ballot, this could go on for a while.
Also, stay curious. Don’t land on one channel and stay there, particularly if it’s Fox News or MSNBC. Surf wide and surf often. Visit credible media sites. Disinformation is going to be flying around like insults at a Trump rally. Beware its lure.
The City News Bureau of Chicago had a saying about the skepticism necessary to report accurately: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
Good advice. Use it. (Sorry, Mom.)
It’s tough, but you need to be patient
I’ve been writing some version of a how-to-watch-election-returns column for 20 years. It’s easy to say that coverage this year is shaping up to be different than any other — easy to say because it’s true.
Every network has gone on record preaching patience, saying it won’t rush to judgment. They’re preparing their viewers for a different kind of night, one that could play out over a longer period of time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way a lot of people vote, and how votes are counted. It isn’t chaos, not at all, but it might appear somewhat chaotic in the moment. Some networks may fuel that impression. With that in mind, there are some things to consider.
First, President Donald Trump is likely to complain about the process. He did in 2016, too, but as the incumbent, he has more power. This is not a statement of political bias. This is a recognition that he’s been doing that already, a lot. He has said there should be a winner chosen on election night, that this would constitute a legitimate outcome. That’s wrong. He has also suggested he would not accept an outcome he doesn’t consider legitimate. Of course, he’s not the arbiter of what makes an outcome legitimate. If he doesn’t like it, he can, and will, complain. But nothing more.
No winner was declared on election night in 2000 (not for weeks in that election). Nor in 2004. With a massive amount of early voting and mail-in ballots paired with a disparity in when states begin counting those votes, it’s likely to take a while to determine a winner. The most important thing for networks is to wait for the process to play out and report on it accurately.
Vote. And then vote with your remote
It’s important for viewers, too. And remember, you have a choice here. If you hear any so called “expert” on TV say it’s a problem if a decision isn’t made Tuesday night, change the channel. Vote with your remote. (But actually vote, too.)
ARIZONA 2020 BALLOT: Voters guide for Nov. 3 general election
Also: Trump, trailing in many polls, and the Republican Party have made a point to preemptively delegitimize the results in some states, challenging the voting process all along the way. For instance, in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state, Trump’s campaign is videotaping early voters, a move some contend amounts to intimidation, and fighting to limit how late mail-in ballots can be accepted.
There is no reason to believe this will not continue on election night and beyond. Again, not politics — facts. Occasionally networks, whether through partisan designs or in an off-base attempt at “both sides” reporting, amplify this. It may happen again on election night.
Don’t listen. The facts are simple: There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States. There just isn’t. To even suggest otherwise is irresponsible.
As the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice puts it in an extensive report, “Fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is virtually nonexistent, and many instances of alleged fraud are, in fact, mistakes by voters or administrators. The same is true for mail ballots, which are secure and essential to holding a safe election amid the coronavirus pandemic.”
Like always, follow the advice found in self-help books: Step outside your comfort zone. If you’re conservative, watch some MSNBC. If you’re liberal, watch Fox News. It may take a gallon of Pepto-Bismol to stomach it, depending on your political bent. But it’s worth it if you want benchmarks of how the night is going. You’re far better served doing that than simply having your own preconceived notions repeated to you ad nauseam.
Approach Twitter and Facebook with caution
Scroll your social media feeds with caution.
Twitter, Facebook and TikTok have put in place various ways of flagging false and misleading posts, but they’re hardly foolproof. It’s the Wild West out there on those platforms. This is good advice every day, by the way. But there’s no telling what people will claim Tuesday night.
Finally, if anyone — Trump, Joe Biden, supporters, detractors, anyone — claims victory before legitimate news sources have confirmed it, ignore them. Turn off the TV for a bit. Take a walk, then come back. The noise will be loud, but it doesn’t have to be deafening. Networks need to be responsible Tuesday night. So do their audiences.
Subscribe to azcentral.com today. What are you waiting for?
Friends, this isn’t the time to be complacent. If you are ready to fight for the soul of this nation, you can start by donating to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by clicking the button below.
Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.