November Surprise

Washington Post Headline

More than a few media watchers have audaciously proclaimed that this week’s viral performance by the “President” spells doom for his prospects of re-election come November. I disagree.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the age of Trump, scandals big and small simply dissipate in a matter of days, if not hours. Some never rise to the level of national awareness, while others that normally should have legs, don’t. The ephemeral nature of today’s news diet is in part a result of the fragmented media landscape where mind-boggling revelations reported by once-trusted national news organizations fail to make an indelible impression. All this while a White House/GOP/FoxNews/Facebook-led cabal is working tirelessly to deride quality journalism as we know it.

From the Mueller Report to Presidential impeachment to child separation (and jailing), we are in an age where only freshly reported news can create awareness and action. Joe Biden’s primary win in South Carolina and the endorsements that emerged leading into Super Tuesday were still on voters’ minds when they gave the moderate Democrat wins in every county in Michigan and five of the six states voting three days later. 

Granted, the coronavirus pandemic may be the biggest story of the last three years, one that is far from disappearing from the leads of every newspaper, TV news, and streaming news report. However, I predict that by the end of the summer, the U.S. government’s gross negligence in addressing this crisis will have faded in Americans’ rearview mirrors, not unlike Mueller, Ukraine, and incarcerated children, which brings me to the subject of timing.

From The Smithsonian:

“The term ‘October Surprise’ was coined by a 1980s political operative but has ever since been appropriated by the media to describe unexpected political disasters in the twilight hours of the campaign. Sometimes they are intentionally positioned by political opponents to impact voters, often days before they head to the polls. They aren’t always successful, but they’ve become a staple of modern politics.”

Does the concept of an October Surprise still hold water with today’s relentless flow of news wherein one scandalous story supplants another in rapid succession? If this health crisis, and the mismanagement thereof, had reared its ugly head in late October instead of in March, I believe its impact on Americans’ behavior in the voting booth will be more meaningful. In this news climate, people simply have short attention spans.

That said, don’t be surprised when Parscale and Trump’s insidious re-election campaign manufactures its own disinformative, headline-generating surprise just before the election. Let’s hope they jump the gun too early and it dissipates by Tuesday, November 2.