Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Local media figures dissect the 2016 presidential election at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

While some parts of America are ecstatic and others scared in the wake of Donald Trump’s shocking presidential victory earlier this month, most others are simply thankful the whole long, ugly, divisive campaign is history.

Then there is the political class, who in opinion pieces and discussions on cable news, continue to chatter about what led to perhaps the biggest political upset in modern U.S. history.

The Tampa Tiger Bay Club hosted their debriefing of the election on Friday with four local reporters and or/pundits to break it all down.

“This election had nothing to do with James Comey, WikiLeaks, nothing to do with the lack of Latino turnout,” declared Peter Schorsch, the proprietor of and (i.e. the owner of this website who pays this reporter’s salary). “Do you want to know why Donald Trump won? Go back and watch ‘The Big Short,’ he said, referring to the 2015 adaptation of the Michael Lewis authored tome from 2010 depicting different players who understood how the financial market was ready to collapse in 2008.

“People lost their 401K’s. They lost their retirement. They lost their houses. They lost trillions of dollars worth of wealth. That’s why Donald Trump won. All the other stuff is basically window dressing.”

Schorsch and Patrick Mantegia, the editor and publisher of Tampa’s La Gaceta trilingual weekly newspaper, were by far the most opinionated of the four media figures asked to weigh in. WFLA Newschannel 8 anchor Keith Cate and Tampa Bay Business Journal reporter Janelle Irwin, on the other hand, tried hard to not stray too far into opinion during the hour long forum held a the Ferguson Law Center in downtown Tampa.

Mantegia, a lifelong Democrat who says his paper’s editorial slant looks at events through “Hispanic-colored lenses,” said the fact that Hillsborough County is becoming more Democratic and more Hispanic means it will probably no longer maintain its status as one of the preeminent bellwether counties when it comes to presidential elections in the future. “I don’t think we will represent the nation in voting as much as we used to,” he surmised. Hillary Clinton won Hillsborough County by seven percentage points on Election Night, while Trump took Florida by 1.2 percent.

Cate talked about having the privilege of being able to cover much of election in person, beginning in Iowa in January, through the political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia and deep into the fall. “I got to watch the fascination with Donald Trump, the fascination with Bernie Sanders. They were the stars of this campaign.” Clinton, on the other hand, struggled to draw large crowds. “I don’t want to say she couldn’t draw a crowd,” he said, but in comparison with Trump and Sanders, “you can see she had some work to do.”

Manteiga admitted that while all of his close friends and family members supported Clinton, there was zero excitement for her campaign.

“There are some who think this will be a whiter, ‘Christian-er’ America,” the La Gaecta editor said regarding what the election results mean. “I think that there are people who want simple solutions to our complex problems. And they are complex problems,” he said, referring to solving issues with health care, Social Security and Medicare. “Making America Great Again was a great way of coming up with simple solutions to difficult problems, and I think that people just wanted something to happen.”

“I think it was more of a feeling,” added Cate. “I just think it was a feeling: Let’s do something else. There were feelings that were thrown out more than there were issues thrown out, so I would say it was an issue change election.

The mainstream media has been blasted from all angles in the wake of the election upset, and Trump’s shaking off of the presidential “pool” reporters during the campaign and this past week in New York City has alarmed much of the media, concerned that Trump won’t play by the established rules in working with the Fourth Estate.”

“There are very legitimate questions whether or not he’s going to continue that practice once he’s in the White House,” Irwin continued. “Are White House press correspondents going to have press access  the way that they traditionally have always have ? There is no law saying that they have to. In that sense, there’s something to worry about.”

Irwin also says that the disdain and contempt for reporters that was expressed by Trump and his supporters at nearly every one of his rallies has her concerned.

“We were demonized, and it wasn’t just the people who were covering the campaign, it wasn’t just the press pool, it was a sweeping generalization of all media, and now you have a constituency of people who are following Donald Trump and listening to his words as if they’re some sort of biblical mandate that the media is bad.,” she said, adding she worries what might happen now when people don’t like the content of a reporters’s story. “Is that going to come back and hurt us from the stance of being safe? That’s my concern.”

Cate said he believed that there is bias in the media “that leans left,” but stressed that “it doesn’t mean you can’t hold people accountable from both sides.”

Schorsch said he believed that there would now be a “horrible overreaction” by the media after missing out on the election’s ultimate results. “They’re going to want to interview every angry white guy over and over again for the next 18 months in a quixotic attempt to figure out what went wrong because they didn’t listen to them before.”

Mantiega said that it may not productive to spend too much time trying to understand the ramifications of the election because of the singularity of Trump.

“Maybe John Morgan can be come the next governor in the state of Florida,” he contemplated, referring to the Orlando attorney, major fundraiser and biggest proponent financially in getting medical marijuana legalized in Florida.”An outspoken Democrat who can speak the truth and be for the little guy even though he’s a rich guy driving a limousine. I really don’t know if you can learn from him.”

Both Manteiga and Schorsch said the Florida Democratic Party needs to look hard at themselves and the people they keep hiring to get the same poor results.

“We’re not doing something right,” Manteiga said. “We continue to have these people there, where it seems it’s okay to lose. You still get the same paycheck.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

Latest from The Bay and the 'Burg

Go to Top