The Corner

Politics & Policy

Trump’s Evil Empire

I wrote about Trump and the media for Politico today:

Newt Gingrich demonstrated the transformative potential of theatrical attacks on the moderators in his show-stopping performances in two debates before the South Carolina primary in 2012. He wouldn’t have won the state without them.

Trump’s insight was basically, “What if every day were like that?” After witnessing the fate of two candidates who got savage coverage in the general election, despite being a media darling in the case of John McCain and being an earnest, well-meaning man in the case of Mitt Romney, Republican voters were ready for harsher stuff. The famous George H.W. Bush bumper sticker from 1992 was, “Annoy the Media: Re-elect Bush.” In 2016, it became in effect, “Drive the Media Out of Its Ever-Loving Minds: Vote Trump: Elect Trump.”

Trump had long had his own problems with the media, not that it was too liberal, but that it wasn’t nearly favorable enough to Donald Trump. With his talents as a showman, his knack for branding (“fake news”), his taste for combat, his instinct for what energizes an audience, and his high tolerance for controversy, he was ideally suited to transfer his long-developed personal sensitivity to slights from reporters to the ideological realm of Republican presidential politics. Almost as much as anything else, he rode his mutual enmity with the media to the White House.

It remains a lifeline. Most commentators saw Trump angrily saying indefensible things about Charlottesville at the news conference last week; most Republicans saw him gamely standing his ground in front a group of braying reporters.