A shift in the media narrative has taken place that seeks to win arguments with President Trump’s Administration by publicizing the most heart-rending stories imaginable. In matters that impact millions of voters and billions of dollars, it has traditionally been the side that best presents the real numbers and factual implications that wins the debate. A relatively new tactic of highlighting anecdotal cases as the key platform argument has taken root; it is divisive and creates an emotional reaction, but it is also effective.
As the new Administration seeks to tighten up Voter Rolls (in order to limit the possibility of electoral fraud), the mainstream media has begun running stories about individual voters being disenfranchised. The stories follow a theme of “American Heroes” being denied their rights.
NBC is currently running a story on a Mr. Larry Harmon, a veteran who has been removed from the Ohio voter roll.
“I served in the military and they tell us, ‘Oh, you’re fighting for freedom.'” he said. “Then you come back and you’re taken off the voter rolls because you didn’t vote for two elections? That doesn’t make sense. I thought that was our right.”
“I’ve been paying my taxes, paying my property taxes, registering my car,” he said. “All the data was there for (election officials) to know that I was there.”
While this is a case of someone who legitimately should be on the voter roll, NBC makes this statement:
Thanks to six years of inactivity — and a single piece of unanswered mail asking him to confirm his voter registration — Harmon, now a plaintiff in a major voter purge lawsuit before the Supreme Court, was removed from Ohio’s voter rolls.
So Mr. Harmon was in fact contacted by the state to address his situation before being removed. It was “unanswered”, and that responsibility lies with Larry Harmon. A lawsuit in action because the plaintiff didn’t respond to a letter asking him to renew his information should be considered frivolous. Consider this scenario:
”I didn’t pay my taxes because I didn’t know I had to, and the IRS only sent me one letter saying that I should.” This is not a legal defense.
Similar tactics are being used to try and halt the Welfare to Work program that has so successfully reduced Food Stamp claimants by 80% in Maine. The Washington Post is running an article about a man who lost his access to Welfare for a “period of time”.
“Tim Keefe, an out-of-work and homeless Navy veteran,” tells his story of when he was unable to claim Welfare “for a period of time.”
Not mentioned in the article is any time-specific language that would inform the reader that he was denied welfare and then regained welfare after a relatively SHORT “period of time.” Regardless, it is a difficult story to hear:
“I was eating what I could find, and borrowed from friends and strangers,” Keefe said in testimony to the Maine legislature. “There were many times … when I would go two or even three days without food. If one was inclined to lose a lot of weight, I could recommend this diet wholeheartedly.”
Yes, it is a very sad story. However, the reality is that these individual tales of woe have been actively sought out by the media. The intention being to build public opinion against the policies of President Trump’s Administration.
These articles are not focusing on the fact that Welfare to Work has been shown to be incredibly effective at actually getting people back into employment. Nor do they show that cleaning up voter rolls actually ENFRANCHISES voters by fighting fraud so that your vote really does count.
No, they appeal to the emotional side of an argument that is more difficult to counter without appearing heartless. Fact vs fact gives the public rational arguments to weigh the pros and cons. Emotional arguments play on irrational fears and raw emotion. Although effective, it rarely leads to practical solutions or viable policy.
Mark is a political writer and journalist who has worked on campaigns for Brexit.