I’m spending this week experimenting with different possible forms of output for a new project I’m pursuing that involves a daily critique of American political journalism. Please share your thoughts in comments, or at email@example.com.
You know who I want to hear from? Ordinary Baltimoreans.
(Not more Trump supporters.)
It seems like every time Donald Trump crosses yet another line, the elite Washington press corps decides to find out if his supporters are still supporting him. So in the wake of Trump’s vicious attack on Baltimoreans, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see yet another dispatch from the Trumpian heartland asking if these latest tweets went too far before we see one quoting residents of Baltimore at any length.
But it’s the latter that I want to see. How does it feel to be essentially called subhuman by the president of the United States? How does it feel to have your neighborhood described as “infested” – a word he reserves exclusively for places where brown people live?
Because those people represent America – or at least what I think America still is – better than the Trump supporters I read about all the time.
And their feelings will probably resonate with more people – arguably, a healthy majority of the American electorate — than the racism-skirting rationalizations of certain angry white people.
New York Times opinion writer Jamelle Bouie recently wrote a wonderful column in which he pointed out that “anti-Trump voters are practically invisible in recent mainstream political coverage.” And in particular, he noted, “the press isn’t hyper-solicitous of the views of black voters.” I’ll have a lot more to say about that some other day.
And yes, of course the media quotes critics of Trump. But they tend to be officials of some kind or another.
Look at the response to Trump’s tweets attacking Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings. The vast majority of people quoted hold some kind of office. (The fact that they can be reached by phone or email, rather than risking shoe leather, is certainly part of the reason.) The regular residents of Baltimore are being overlooked. Again.
Even the Baltimore Sun’s big reax piece was full of officials. The quotes from the one evidently ordinary resident and one minister were buried, even though I thought they were the best part:
“Where does he get off talking about people like that?” said Sandra Jones, 73, seated at a picnic table in Druid Hill Park for an annual neighborhood cookout and reunion for residents who grew up in Sandtown-Winchester.
No matter what Trump said, she said she was proud to be from the city. The president, on the other hand, she called “the worst embarrassment this country has ever had.”
To the Rev. William Sewell of Edmondson Village, Trump’s comments were more of the same — racist, hateful remarks from a president known for writing off whole countries, for telling congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from.
“I’m not surprised at all at anything he does,” Sewell said.
The New York Times story about how Trump’s remarks “elicited a fierce rebuttal from Baltimoreans, who are not shy about pointing out their city’s many woes while remaining its fierce defenders,” had quotes from the president of the local NAACP branch – and from CNN anchor Victor Blackwell.
There was a Washington Post story on how Jared Kushner is something of a Baltimore slumlord. But no tenants were quoted. No reporter, presumably, ventured there.
I may have missed some good examples of reporters who talked to real Baltimore residents. I kind of hope I did. Let me know if so.
Meanwhile, however, there’s another entry in the talking-to-Trump-supporters category today, this one from Vice. Reporter Cameron Joseph leads with the elusive Trump-supporter-no-longer-supporting-Trump. But only one: a laid-off GM employee who says of Trump’s talk “I think it’s ‘blah blah blah.’” There’s no direct quote from him saying he won’t vote for Trump again, though I guess I’ll take Joseph’s word for it.
The premise of the story is that maybe Trump’s white, blue-collar voters in Michigan will turn on him because it turns out so many of his campaign promises were a con.
But it’s the second guy (and only other regular white guy) in the article whose story strikes me as more revealing:
Ken Shelton has worked for GM for 41 years, and is considering retirement if he can’t land at another plant near his home now that his Warren plant job is disappearing. He voted Democratic most of his life before backing Trump, but hasn’t been pleased with what he’s seen.
“His loyalties lie with the people who got the money, not that that are out here making it,” he said as he pulled out of GM’s Warren plant parking lot.
But that doesn’t mean Shelton is ready to come back to the fold. He called modern Democrats “scary,” and said he wouldn’t vote for them despite his misgivings about Trump “as long as they keep preaching gun control and socialism.”
So yeah, racists gonna be racist.
Let’s hear from some other people.