No serious person has ever argued that American elections should run more smoothly than they do. By design, they are usually raucous affairs full of spit and vinegar because there is so much at stake in how they turn out.

None of that has kept people, particularly among the cultural and political elites of the nation, from expressing a desire for impartial umpires to call balls and strikes during a campaign, distinguishing between what’s acceptable and what’s not.

It’s a mistake to believe the media can handle the responsibility now, even if it might have done so once fairly and effectively. A new study by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications explains why.

Simply put, the composition of the media is too biased to expect reporters to be fair. According to the Newhouse survey, based on online interviews conducted with 1,600 U.S. journalists in early 2022, 36% identified themselves as Democrats, while just 3.4% said they were Republicans. If you think that’s confirmation of an imbalance in how the world is viewed in newsrooms from New York to Los Angeles, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Half of those surveyed in 2022 claimed to be independent as was the case in 2013, the last time the data was collected. That doesn’t make much difference. Usually, that’s just a codeword that, when deciphered, means liberal but not partisan. How can any Republican candidate or conservative policy prescription expect to get a fair shake given numbers like that?

This plays out in all sorts of ways, including in the battle being waged by some liberals to keep former President Donald Trump off the ballot in 2024.

The proponents of the cause, including a number of influential Democratic lawyers and law professors, four of the seven judges on the Colorado State Supreme Court, and the former American Civil Liberties Union official who is now the secretary of State in Maine believe sui generis, that Trump engaged in acts that are, according to the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, insurrectionist which therefore prohibit him from holding high elective office ever again.

That’s a lot to swallow and based on the images impressed on people’s minds of events in and around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, it seems simple enough to prove. But it’s not, which many of the stories covering the effort to bump Trump off the ballot have failed to address.

Words in a news article don’t matter much. They are what they are, open to interpretation. In a court of law, however, they can mean everything. This brings up a prerequisite central to the argument: Trump has not been convicted of the crime of insurrection, which has a specific definition, nor, it can be argued, has he been charged with it in a venue that matters.

Partisans like Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a former non-profit executive who is not an attorney, have decided to substitute their own judgment for the requirements of the law. Admittedly, in the case of Trump and January 6, it is a gray area with many untested arguments. For her to act as she did on Thursday deprives Trump of his right to due process and the citizens of Maine of the right, potentially, to vote for the candidate of their choosing.

It’s that kind of elite behavior — some might even call it tyrannical — that has pushed so many people into Trump’s corner. They’re tired of other people making decisions for them and of the interference in their lives and businesses and the raising of their kids.

There are strong arguments in favor of the view Trump’s actions and words following the November 2020 election did not rise to the level of insurrection but good luck trying to hear them. Most of the 96.6% of the American media who aren’t Republicans — and even some who are — have devoted themselves to making sure they’re not discussed in any serious way in any prominent venue.

People who want to know what they are so they can decide for themselves are going to have to wait until the GOP begins to respond in kind and tries to have Democrats running for governor and United States senator declared ineligible for a place on the ballot to hear the arguments in favor of the public being able to choose.

Peter Roffon January 2, 2024

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