Trump Election Night Chaos is Possible

I viewed a disturbing program on HBO’s Axios about the potential of a “red mirage” on election night. If you haven’t seen the story, watch it here. This so-called mirage is based on the projection that more than 40% of Americans will vote by mail because of the pandemic. Josh Mendelsohn, the CEO of a company named Hawkfish, first presented this theory. Hawkfish is funded by Mike Bloomberg to support Democratic candidates, but the company’s precise agenda is unclear. Their website presents a dazzling array of imprecise buzzwords that paint a fuzzy picture, but here’s a quote from Mendelsohn, “We are sounding an alarm and saying that this is a very real possibility, that the data is going to show on election night an incredible victory for Donald Trump.” When every legitimate vote is tallied and we get to that final day, which will be some day after Election Day, it could be that what happened on election night was truly a “red mirage,” I hope the news networks are aware of the potential and have their heads screwed on tightly to prevent such a disaster.

This “red mirage” could happen if news reporters, eager to get and hold their audiences, hype early returns which show Donald Trump and Mike Pence winning in many states. People will go to bed on election night believing the Donald got his four more years but when all legitimate votes are finally counted, perhaps as much as a week after November 3, it might be found those election night predictions were just a “mirage” and the true winners are Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

We all know that Donald John Trump is an anxious, impatient child. We know on election night he could possibly make a bizarre pronouncement of victory. He truly will believe if he speaks the words, they will be true. It’s not inconceivable that he would try to declare that any votes counted after he anoints himself the winner will be invalid. That would certainly be scary and create a constitutional crisis. If you think this is bullshit, see how long he’s been able to stonewall his tax returns. He might use his legal goons to keep the results away from us for months.

Dear News Executives:

You have an election night responsibility beyond your standard operating procedures. Just as you wouldn’t purposely create panic due to a virus or natural disaster, you certainly wouldn’t want to force a constitutional crisis by announcing incorrect election results. So, what exactly should you do on election night? I have some suggestions.

First, you must inform your audience that this is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. As much as you would like to have a grand conclusion on election night, that won’t happen. All media outlets should have a “gentleman’s agreement” that they will not call a win until each state’s secretary announces their winner. I know this will take discipline on your part, and should you feel reluctant, remember how foolish you looked with the Gore vs. Bush fiasco All of you need to manage the expectations of the viewers while ignoring any conspiracy minded elephant in the room.

You might want to consider changing the format of the reporting. Instead of a reporter jumping between multiple screens with small bits of data, use the old radio concept of “weather on the tens.” Radio programmers used that concept so their audiences would know they would hear the weather forecast every ten minutes. It kept folks from tuning out before hearing the day’s weather. Your election coverage could be presented as 2020 RETURNS, EVERY TWENTY MINUTES. Give us short updates and promote the fact you’ll stay on the air until the final ballots are counted. No matter how many days that might be.

I know you will be tempted to use exit polls to embellish the coverage because the results will be slow in coming, but I urge that you DON’T. If you predict an outcome while ballots are still being counted, you will not only play into the conspiracy theory that our election is corrupt, fixed or rigged, but you could confuse the voters. Yes, as much as your million-dollar graphics, skillful on-the-fly pundits and experts should be seen and heard, they will not be helpful if they announce that a particular candidate was victorious when they were not.

The “red mirage” being talked about is a real possibility and you have a responsibility of making sure Americans believe you and trust that the election results are real. Your brands have suffered damage by the acts of the President, the Congress and Russians. You can repair your reputations by becoming beacons of truth and accurate information. As I have said to my neighbors, we may never agree on talking points, but we must agree on facts. It’s your job to deliver verified truth so that the word “retraction” is never needed.

Every four years we hear, “This is the most important election in the history of the United States.” The divide between viewpoints ensures that many people will be angry with the results. Perhaps on this one you should avoid the crossfire and ignore the temptation to be sucked into the hyperbole and misdirection of being first with the results. Please, just give us the facts.


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  1. If anything, I have heard news outlets pointing out that it could be several days before all results are in, so it would appear they are giving this some thought now — which is an excellent idea. I have even heard we should lower our expectations for election night. With Trump on the ticket, how could they get any lower? Also worth keeping in mind is that just because you declare victory, that doesn’t make your the winner, and while concession speeches make for nice TV, YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE ONE to lose. I would very much like to see us avoid the Bush V. Gore contest that dragged on way too long, but given the desperation of our current president, I am expecting something along those lines. I am just hoping for margins of victory or defeat distant enough to avoid automatic recounts. So vote!

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