Major news organizations need to start paying less attention to Donald Trump, and more attention to the voices of the American majority who hold starkly different values.
Starting with Bernie Sanders.
Let me explain.
I spent a chunk of yesterday engaging in spirited social media discussions about who, what and where the voices of anti-Trumpism are, and why they aren’t a more significant part of the elite political discourse. I had written a post about core values I think most people share, that Trump does not.
Then, this morning I awoke to a classic example of how anything Trump says can immediately dominate the news cycle.
In an interview that was intended to generate ratings for Axios’s latest venture — and obviously granted by Trump as a favor to the publication in return for its slavish devotion to his every word — reporter Jonathan Swan joyfully goaded Trump into making the hyperbolic assertion that he would proceed to end birthright citizenship. He also didn’t counter Trump’s blatant lie about the U.S. being the only country with that policy (30 countries have it.)
Everything wrong with elite political journalism right here: Cozying up to Trump to get ratings, goading him into new hyperbole, no pushback, reporting it like it’s actually going to happen, the pack chases https://t.co/RrLlt6BKl8 pic.twitter.com/fcvQ0YCHFK
— Dan Froomkin (@froomkin) October 30, 2018
Now, that’s something he can’t do and probably won’t even try to do, but it perfectly served Axios’s need for attention and Trump’s ongoing campaign to make the midterms a referendum on scary immigrants, rather than him.
Other news organization responded with speed and alarming credulity, some making it sound, at least initially, like a done deal — and failing to even hint to readers that this was not the least bit credible.
Let’s stipulate: The man gets way too much attention.
So back to yesterday’s discussion.
What I heard pretty consistently is that there is no one voice of anti-Trumpism, there are multitudes. That is in part because the nature of the beast.
And it’s true. The notion of putting all one’s faith in the Leader is High Trumpism. Progressives are more iconoclastic and diverse. Similarly:
To which Rebecca Solnit herself responded: “The opposite of charismatic authoritarian leaders is leadership in civil society: all of us.”
But on the other hand, I also heard a lot of this:
For me it's Bernie. I believe his platform speaks to the majority of Americans, but cannot get amplified by a uninterested media.
— Bring-Back-ACORN (@WarrenGetchell) October 29, 2018
The runner-up was Beto.
But right behind were Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and some newer voices as well.
For now, I don’t need 1 person to be “the” champion; we must all be champions. Many voices have emerged & collectively, look like America: Harris, Hirono, Booker, O’Rourke, Gillum, Abrams, Ocasio-Cortez, to name a few. Diverse in many ways, able to oppose across the spectrum.
— Anne (@SparksMom53) October 29, 2018
The anti-Trump is Amy Klobuchar. Well-liked on both sides of the aisle, intelligent, from a rural midwestern state, quiet and composed, Ag-informed, non-celebrity. Hope this helps…
— Cliff (@cliff_OP) October 29, 2018
So why aren’t these people’s voices being heard every day – and not just as “critics” quoted in an article about Trump, but in articles of their own?
One explanation struck me as particularly convincing. For some reason it won’t embed, so I’ll just cut-and-paste. Lara A. Ballard wrote:
Well, a lot of them are women or minorities, so they get pilloried by white male leftists the minute they stick their neck out. So, for example, if I threw out the name “Kamala Harris,” the reaction on your FB feed would be like I was chumming the water for sharks.
The political media and political establishment across the spectrum still tend to squelch women and minority voices relative to white men. I don’t think it’s fair to say that white male leftists inevitably pillory, but I think that if, as seems reasonable, the voices of anti-Trumpism are mostly women and minority, that would partly explain why it’s not being heard more loudly. Depressing. So how do we fix?
And Lara Ballard wrote back:
Good on ya for your response. If you want to know what it takes to fix this problem, it starts with white men like yourselves teaching yourselves not to holler like a hit dog at the mere mention of the topic. I got all sorts of white woman privilege myself. Restraining my own urge to holler takes training. We have to take a deep breath and say to ourselves, “I’m not always going to be in charge here, and that’s okay.” Like, maybe this isn’t even our problem to fix, and we should take the lead from some members of racial minorities who might already know how to fix it, if we would just listen to them and let them lead us.
Another possible explanation for the lack of coverage in the national press corps is that the action is local.
And finally, there was a fair amount of media bashing, some of it completely deserved:
Maybe because the news media en masse still has a compulsion to normalize trump so he fits into their comfortable, false narrative of competing ideologies. the mass news media does not platform genuine left-liberals; they prefer apostate Republicans and “woke'' never-Trumpers.
— Paul Loop (@ploop52) October 29, 2018