The lead story in the New York Times Election Day, “At Election’s End, A Sunny Tone Meets Dark” was penned by reporter Michael Barbaro, last seen composing a loving vignette of a joyous Hillary Clinton dancing in the rain.
Meanwhile, a Times colleague suggested Sarah Palin and the Tea Party were to blame for the campaign’s dark tone, and even blamed conservative critics of the news media indirectly for alleged death wishes against Obama and Hillary Clinton shouted at GOP campaign rallies.
In Tuesday’s lead slot, Barbaro predictably hopscotched from Clinton to Trump, from sunny and light to dark and grim:
In Philadelphia, Mrs. Clinton drew the biggest crowd of her 19-month campaign to the vast plaza in front of Independence Hall, where Bruce Springsteen, the balladeer of working-class America, rhapsodized about her values and the candidate portrayed herself as a protector of freedom and equality.
Perhaps that had more to do with “free Springsteen concert” than the candidate herself.
The contrasts between the candidates and their messages were on vivid display in the campaign’s last full day.
As she embarked on a four-state tour, Mrs. Clinton gave a sunny and optimistic summation of her candidacy for the White House.
“Tomorrow, you can vote for a hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America,” she told a crowd in Pittsburgh.
Mr. Trump, who campaigned in five states on Monday, took a harsher approach, assailing the “crooked media,” attacking a “corrupt Washington establishment” and mocking Mrs. Clinton over and over.
Barbaro found a fool-proof sign of public service credibility: aggregate Grammies:
Mr. Trump seemed sensitive to the fact that his final 48 hours on the campaign trail lacked the star power drawn to Mrs. Clinton, who was accompanied by musicians like Jay Z, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Mr. Springsteen. (Collectively, her surrogates have more than 80 Grammy Awards.)
The lead story in a special Election 2016 pullout section by reporter Matt Flegenheimer, “Earthquake and Aftershock,” slurred Tea Party conservatives while contrasting 2016 to the hopeful tone of 2008 -- when a liberal Democrat just happened to be elected. The text box: “If 2008 is remembered as a moment of progress, 2016 finds the nation taking a long look inward and shuddering.”
It was nearly eight years ago, somehow.
Those who gathered then -- curious, hopeful, freezing -- remember it all: the ocean of faces across the National Mall; the crackling energy, building as they waited; the catharsis of more than a million strangers finding occasion to shiver together, cheer together, cry together after a presidential campaign that had, to them, affirmed the best of America.
“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises,” President Obama vowed, just after assuming the title, “the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”
They remember that pledge.
They do not remember why it seemed possible.
And a campaign pocked with racism and sexism, rendered in open view, may well reach this conclusion: Americans replacing their first black chief executive with their first female one.
Flegenheimer ran down the usual liberal suspects:
There is a tendency to sanitize bygone political eras in the retelling, to draw straight lines where squiggles belong. Surely some signposts of unrest were discernible many exits ago -- the rise in income inequality, scraping away at the middle class; the preponderance of partisan news media; congressional functionality morphing from labored to gridlocked to hopeless.
He did take a jab at Democratic hypocrisy over Trump, before clumsily suggesting that opposition to Democratic candidates boiled down to bigotry:
And for all the rose-colored tributes to John McCain and Mitt Romney, who are now held up by Democrats as exemplars of erstwhile Republican honor and sanity, many Obama supporters once seethed at the sight of them -- and, for at least a few months of 2008, of Mrs. Clinton, too.
So much was bound to get worse before it got better. People lost jobs, savings, homes. Some looked at the president and saw distance, fecklessness, insufficiency. Most were not outright bigots.
Norms had been threatened before 2016, but never bulldozed with such ease.
Truth has often felt contested, but never so thoroughly subjective.
There have been crusades against political correctness, but never a national reckoning over the propriety of boasting about sexual assault.
Mr. McCain’s memorably pointed defense of Mr. Obama after a voter labeled him “an Arab” has given way to a Republican nominee advocating a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Mr. McCain, in conceding, hailed the historic moment: “Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country.” Mr. Trump has not committed to accepting the results of the election.
Who’s to blame? Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and conservative critics of media bias. Flegenheimer drew a line from those critics to alleged death wishes targeting Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Mr. McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, helped coax what became the Tea Party into full bloom -- an insurgency that helped spawn Mr. Trump’s own -- exporting the boiling anger from her campaign events to a mass audience, even as some McCain aides expressed horror at what they had wrought.
Many conservatives see a through line from Ms. Palin’s treatment by the national news media, which they viewed as unfair and condescending, to the heightened distrust of traditional news sources. This context, they say, can account for the otherwise genial-looking Americans now prone to screaming obscenities at reporters during Trump rallies.
But the fury rings familiar. Those early, menacing shouts from Palin crowds -- “Kill him!” or “Terrorist!” at a mention of Mr. Obama -- have wafted to the main stage, absorbed and repurposed by the speakers at the microphone. Amid signs and chants demanding Mrs. Clinton’s jailing, wishing her death and denouncing her with unprintable gendered slurs, Mr. Trump has himself wondered aloud about the “Second Amendment people” who might take matters into their own hands if she is elected.
And after years of questioning Mr. Obama’s birthplace -- then falsely accusing Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign of having done so first -- Mr. Trump has seen to it that his followers would never view a Clinton presidency as legitimate.
As has been rehashed here before, it was Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton who first injected the “birther” issue into the national debate.