“The day to decide the balance of power is here and for Democrats, the stakes for this race and the future of their party could not be higher,” said “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade, also Tuesday morning.
“The stakes really couldn’t be higher tonight,” said Anderson Cooper on Monday night upon introducing a large panel of pundits.
“In just three days, voters will head to the polls and cast their ballots in the 2018 midterm elections. The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said host S.E. Cupp on Saturday on her CNN show.
And please trust the Erik Wemple Blog: There is much, much more talk of sky-high stakes in recent cable-news archives.
May it never be said that the cable-news channels and their varying ideologies don’t agree on anything. They fully agree, as it turns out, that the imperative of drawing as many viewers to their 2018 midterm elections coverage warrants hyperbole. You’ll hear it every two years. As the Erik Wemple Blog wrote during the 2016 presidential election, CNN created something of a stakes trap for itself as its coverage proceeded through debates and primary elections. At each stop, it cited the sky-high stakes, eventually running out of superlatives.
At least the deployment of stakes-oriented exaggeration in 2016 had some resonance. That election, after all, brought us the Trump presidency, with its unprecedented division, incompetence, racism, anti-constitutional norms and, yes, Trump supporters, a continuation of President Barack Obama’s economic recovery. Even President Trump has scoffed at the idea that Tuesday’s contests are transcendent. “Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016,” he said in a speech earlier this year, before checking himself: “Although I’m not sure I really believe that. You know. I don’t know who the hell wrote that line, I’m not sure. … But it’s still important, remember.”
Obama went with the cable-news formulation at a recent stop: “Hope is still out there. We just have to stand up and speak for it. And in two days, Illinois, in two days, you get to vote in what might be the most important election of my lifetime, maybe more important than 2008,” said the two-term president.
Politicians are allowed to hype elections; that’s how they encourage people to vote.
News organizations, not quite so much. They’re supposed to offer sober and factual evaluations of the country’s circumstances, not cliches designed to keep viewers from pressing the “off” button.
But hey, this is the Trump era. He has abused superlatives to the point of decommissioning them: hiring the “best people” (doubtful); engineering the “greatest economy” in U.S. history (false); and …well, let’s just turn it over to The Post’s Dana Milbank:
His “I.Q. is one of the highest.” He has “the best words.” He is a “stable genius.” He has “one of the great memories of all time.” He was “always the best athlete.” His building makes “the best taco bowls.” He knows more about the Islamic State than the generals, and nobody “in the history of the world” knows more about taxes than Trump.
So maybe we won’t come down too hard on cable news for exaggerating the stakes surrounding an electoral verdict on the very worst president in modern U.S. history.