“Ball of confusion… that’s what the world is today. Yeah, yeah!” – Temptations
Yes, the world is a confusing place. And politics has become more divisive as Americans have split into tribes over the few decades. However, “Act like you’ve been to town before” is an old Southern saying we must keep in mind. Whether we lean right or left, we’ve all been to town before.
That’s why I am confused as to why we don’t all understand the President’s consistent press strategy: unless he approves of something reported by the media, it’s automatically “fake news.” And, that includes his press conferences about Covid-19 where he has constantly misled the public.
His strategy is very effective with his base like the elderly. Many American citizens are looking for a simpler time when things were black and white (literally in some cases). Possibly for this reason, trust in the media has been in decline since 1972 when it was 72% overall whereas it is now only 41% (Gallup 9-15-19).
Still, the long-term harm that Trump has done to the reputation of the free press is incalculable, especially among conservatives. What he calls the “mainstream media”, the fourth estate, has been a major leg of the stool holding up our democracy. It’s under attack.
At the beginning of the Trump campaign in 2015, 34% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats trusted the press. But by 2018, only 21% of GOP voters believed the media, less than two thirds of what it was when Trump began his well calculated anti-media campaign. But by 2018, media trust by the Democrats had grown to 76%, up almost 50%.
Meanwhile, Trump has lied more than all the other Presidents in recent history put together. The Washington Post has documented more than 10,000 separate lies. As Bill Maher says, if Trump’s lips are moving, he’s lying.
A senior, I read and watch left and right media. But most of my senior friends don’t read the WP, NYT or any other national paper. They may read their local papers, which they don’t consider to be “mainstream media”. These papers mostly contain city and county news, but some are also filled with ramblings by right-wing social and political pundits who have been around since Methuselah. These writers love Trump and “the good old days” that he says he will bring back, even though this happening is as likely as them turning back time and becoming young again.
And, then there’s social media, which is extreme at both ends. I recently made a short Facebook remark about Rep. Omar being bigoted towards Jews (something which will hurt the Dems electorally). You would have thought I declared a holy war on the left. I’ve had the same reaction on Facebook, but from the right, when I’ve supported Black Lives Matter and criticized police brutality. Social media just reinforces existing views, rather than moderating them.
A lot of negative, but very accurate, information regarding Trump’s handling of the pandemic has come out in larger regional newspapers and the national media. However, the GOP base hasn’t heard these reports because they weren’t on Fox. Or, they just didn’t believe their own ears. As Trump said, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in front of his supporters and they would deny it happened.
So, there’s the media picture facing America as we prepare to enter the 2020 elections. With only 21% of Republican voters believing the normal, traditional, accurate national media sources, it would appear that little can be reported which will change their devotion to Trump… not matter how damaging, factual and accurate these reports may be, as with his inaction regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Democrats are facing a harder battle than they expect, making 2016 look tame. To win, they will have to sell both: a. disgruntled progressives (like Bernie supporters who believe, for good reason, the DNC helped lose 2016 by rigging the primaries) and b. moderates/independents (many suburban former Republicans) who dislike Trump and his antics but don’t want the nation moving to the left via bigger government and higher taxes.
Simultaneously appeasing progressives and moderates won’t be easy to do. Getting both groups to enthusiastically come out to support the Democratic candidate, the way that Trump’s base will support him, is going to be even more difficult.