2016 elec­toral map | Wiki­media Commons

Former Vice Pres­ident and 2020 Demo­c­ratic pres­i­dential nominee Joe Biden is not only ben­e­fiting from a favorable elec­toral map, but also from favorable, biased cov­erage by the main­stream media.

This May, Biden angrily told a prominent Black radio host, “If you have a problem fig­uring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black!” In August 2019, he told a group of Iowa voters that “poor kids are just as bright as white kids.” As a senator from Delaware, he voted for a con­tro­versial crime bill, The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which the American Civil Lib­erties Union crit­i­cized as a key con­tributor to the per­pet­u­ation of mass incar­cer­ation. Biden also voted for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, a con­flict that has lasted for 17 years and one that a 2018 Gallup poll found only 43% of Amer­icans approve of. Biden’s cam­paign platform also promises to con­sider imple­menting unprece­dented national restric­tions to combat the coro­n­avirus, as well as lim­iting fracking by “banning new oil and gas per­mitting on public lands and waters.” 

While Trump’s antics and his own con­tro­versial actions have led to well-deserved media crit­icism, it is obvious that Biden, a U.S. Senator of 36 years and a vice pres­ident of eight years, has a huge public record that ought to be scru­ti­nized and debated as he runs for president.

2020 was never about Biden or the Demo­c­ratic party. It is about Trump, the pan­demic, and his response to it. Sadly, the con­se­quence of this focus has resulted in the Biden-Harris cam­paign rarely facing ques­tions on the sol­vency or con­sti­tu­tion­ality of their policies. 

According to an October 2020 article by The Hill, at least 119 news­paper edi­to­rials endorsed Biden, while only 6 endorsed Trump. While being a left-leaning pub­li­cation does not dis­qualify a pub­li­cation from pro­viding objective media cov­erage, it means that the American media estab­lishment has essen­tially become an extension of the Biden-Harris cam­paign. If a media outlet endorses a cam­paign, then that outlet should not be trusted to report objec­tively, because it is in its interest to promote the can­didate it endorses. When The New York Times and Wash­ington Post endorsed the Biden-Harris cam­paign, they revealed them­selves to be par­tisan advo­cates, not fair infor­mants. The same article from The Hill cited Purdue Uni­versity Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Pro­fessor Jen­nifer Hoewe, who said, “Research has shown that news­paper endorse­ments are impactful, par­tic­u­larly if they come from an unex­pected source.”

An August 2020 Gallup poll found 86% of Amer­icans believe there is a “fair amount” of bias in news cov­erage. This con­clusion is hardly sur­prising, as the media rou­tinely derides posi­tions it dis­agrees with. Glance at any major news outlet’s opinion section  — or even news — and you find pre­dic­tions that a Trump victory will crush demo­c­ratic gov­ernment, a claim that Trump’s America is hope­lessly racist, a long analysis of a con­tro­versial Trump tweet, or a fact-check that claims the latest Biden gaffe is being taken out of context.

The lan­guage used by com­men­tators in the main­stream media also sug­gests that the issues at hand are dog­matic moral posi­tions, rather than debatable policies. This willful igno­rance of the other side is rem­i­niscent of the pris­oners in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” In this allegory, chained pris­oners were only able to see cave-fire illu­mi­nated shadows of objects. Only when a prisoner was able to leave behind his chains could he see the real object illu­mi­nated by the sun.

The main­stream media is the per­son­i­fi­cation of the chains in Plato’s cave. The grand spectrum of pol­itics is boiled down into two can­di­dates who are clearly por­trayed as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of good, Biden and the Demo­c­ratic party, versus evil — Trump. Com­pli­cated issues are sim­plified as moral goods versus the tyran­nical evils, actively anti-racist or com­plicit in racism, forced redis­tri­b­ution of income or against the poor and healthcare. The media’s sim­plistic framing of these issues, rather than coura­geously engaging in their com­plex­ities, creates a false image of moral and political goods. Regardless of where one stands on these issues, policy pro­posals and political philoso­phies of the can­di­dates deserve to be debated on their merits, not accepted or dis­missed because they do not fit a narrative.

The motto of the Wash­ington Post is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Its words ring truer than ever because the Post, like many other outlets, appeals to the darkness of par­ti­sanship and a hyp­o­critical appli­cation of right­eousness against the right’s faults, while dis­missing the faults of the left. Instead of edu­cating people to arrive at their own deci­sions, the main­stream media and its key­board cru­saders mislead and imprison people in their own igno­rance, fear, and biases. 

The media’s cov­erage of the 2020 election bears a lot of the blame for our divisive pol­itics, eroding lib­erties, and the shocking igno­rance of the cit­i­zenry. Let us hope 2024 is different.


Thomas Curro is a sophomore studying politics.