Politics & Policy

The Media Will Learn to Love Trump in Due Time

Trump visits the spin room following the Republican debate in Miami, Fla., in March. (Reuters photo: Joe Skipper)
Come the next presidential election, they’ll paint the GOP nominee as worse than this one.

He is the worst major-party candidate in history.

He’s a gaffe machine. He’s an evil racist who wants to return black people to slavery.

He’s a brutal sexist who wants to return women to the subservience of the 1950s.

He’s a nasty warmonger who doesn’t get the fundamental intricacies of modern foreign policy, with the Manichean worldview to match. He’s an old homophobe with a history of cruelty to workers.

Think we’re talking about Donald Trump?

No, we’re talking about Mitt Romney circa 2012. That’s how the media painted one of the most honorable men ever to run for the White House, the creator of Romneycare, a northeastern Republican with a penchant for compromise and negotiation. Mitt Romney, the left claimed, was no John McCain — that halcyon of moderation and decency.

Now, of course, the media tells us that Donald Trump is a massive departure from the legacy of John McCain and Mitt Romney. He’s beyond the pale! He panders to racists! He’s a vicious sexist and sexual assaulter! He’s uninformed, unstable, ignorant, stupid! Why, compared to Mitt Romney, the man’s a monster!

Much of this may be true in a way it simply wasn’t about Romney. But by 2020, Donald Trump will be the new standard of civility and decency according to the Left. If Republicans nominate a real conservative, Democrats in the media and politics will immediately label that candidate far more extreme than Trump. They’ll pine for the wonderful days when a career Democrat such as Trump could win the Republican nomination — a man who said he liked Planned Parenthood, wanted to expand entitlement programs, backed government-sponsored maternity leave, wanted to close tax loopholes, didn’t care if men used ladies rooms! That Trump — boy, was he a moderate. But this New Guy — what a terror! What a horror!

By 2020, Donald Trump will be the new standard of civility and decency according to the Left.

We’ve already had inklings of this sort of ridiculous manipulation during the primaries. Last December, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post wrote a column stating, “If Ted Cruz is the Republican Party’s cure for Donald Trump, the antidote may be worse than the poison.” Jonathan Chait tweeted in February, “I also think Trump would be a better president than [Marco] Rubio, and that and most Republicans voters [would] be better presidents than Rubio.” Matt Yglesias of Vox.com wrote an entire column titled, “Why I’m more worried about Marco Rubio than Donald Trump.” Yglesias has now updated his piece and admitted he was wrong — but that didn’t stop Elias Isquith of Salon.com from arguing that Yglesias let Ted Cruz off the hook: Yes, Trump would do damage to the country, Isquith wrote, but Cruz’s policies are far worse. Henry Zeffman of The New Statesman wrote that Cruz was more “terrifying” than Trump.

Even after Trump became so toxic that most of these critics acknowledged they’d been wrong, some decided that running mate Mike Pence was far more frightening than Trump. Katha Pollitt of The Nation wrote that Pence was worse for women than Trump, calling him “a flaming reactionary.” Erika Smith wrote in the Sacramento Bee that Pence would be worse than Trump, arguing that he was just the other side of “the same crazy coin.” Vox’s Emily Crockett wrote, “Mike Pence is no less of a threat to women than Donald Trump” — shortly after the recording emerged of Trump saying he could “grab ‘em by the p***y.”

Such cries will be replayed and amplified in 2020 no matter who Republicans nominate, because presumably Republicans won’t repeat the mistake of nominating a Democrat. Democrats in the media would prefer two Democrats battling it out for the White House. This is their favorite election ever: not only do they get a Democrat running against a Democrat posing as a Republican, they get to castigate the Democrat posing as a Republican as a racist and sexist, then smear other Republicans with him.

And then, they’ll get to claim that Trump was part of a moderate new wave rejected by the GOP in 2020 in favor of “extremism.”

This was just one of the problems with nominating Trump. In the latter days of his campaign, holed up in his bunker at the top of Trump Tower, campaigning for $10-per-month subscribers to Trump TV (“Hair, Unbalanced!”), tweeting incessant paroxysms of rage at members of his own party, Trump has become the id of the “burn it all down” Republicans. But for most of his life, he was a blue-dog Democrat. This provides the media and the Left with a convenient blackjack: when they want to portray Trump as extreme, they simply shine a lens on his current radicalism, and note that he’s far out of line with Mitt Romney and John McCain. Later, when they wish to portray the next Republican nominee as extreme and outrageous, they’ll point out Trump’s leftist policies and lament that the GOP has gone so far that they’ve rejected the broadminded politics of that lovable lug from Manhattan.

One of the reasons Trump has been able to maintain a broad base of Republican support is the media’s tendency to overplay its hand with Republicans: They portray every Mitt Romney as a Donald Trump, and they have nowhere left to go when Republicans actually nominate a Donald Trump. But that won’t stop the media from playing this game all over again in four years, when Donald Trump magically transforms into a white knight for reason and jovial bipartisanship . . . as opposed to whichever Republican gets the nomination, that extremist radical.

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