In June, I watched donald trump in New Hampshire speak at a campaign appearance in a big home before an all-white audience. (donald trump appears in lower case, as I refuse to accord him the dignity he routinely refuses others, but in doing so, I extend my apologies to e e cummings.)
I watched his show courtesy of MSNBC, which astonishingly covered it live – all of it.
Trump in his Live Free or Die campaign stop was my first indication that MSNBC, ostensibly the “liberal” cable network, would become donald trump’s personal cable network. I would have thought Fox, maybe CNN, not MSNBC, but there it was – and there it remains.
At that point, and for many months thereafter, the vaunted national media consistently dismissed trump as nothing more than a billionaire blowhard. But that day on Facebook I wrote that trump would be a player in the presidential campaign -- that to dismiss him was a mistake.
A “player” he’s become.
After a big win in New York and a sweep of five primaries last Tuesday, including Pennsylvania, the odds of denying trump the Republican Party’s presidential nomination seem improbable. I thought it would come down to California, that John Kasich, the Ohio governor and decent fellow, might find a way to stop trump, to force the Republican convention to a second ballot, with Kasich emerging as the nominee.
I thought such a scenario would benefit America; that having an adult in the Republican race would serve our country’s interest. While Kasich leading his party would complicate Secretary Clinton’s chances of becoming president (polls show the governor beating her), the interests of the USA trumps the interests of the Democratic Party, and Kasich as nominee would end the insanity of trump’s candidacy.
While I was right about trump and national media wrong, none more so than David Brooks of The New York Times, in the end, it appears, we were all wrong. National media in getting it wrong for so long, and me for thinking that however seriously I viewed his candidacy, trump would fail, in the end, to get the GOP’s nomination.
My being wrong is inconsequential; national media being wrong is vastly consequential for America – resulting, as it has, in the rise and triumph of donald trump.
By aiding trump’s ascendancy MSNBC, Fox, and CNN, sold their collective souls for higher ratings and hundreds of millions of dollars in unanticipated profits.
But of the three primary cable networks, MSNBC has been the most egregious and shameless in its 24/7 saturation coverage of trump.
In their coverage, MSNBC broke a trust with its viewers; a trust based upon an assumption that MSNBC has a moral center and possesses progressive beliefs about politics and government.
The evidence suggests viewer loyalty at MSNBC is secondary to ratings and money; that the two matter infinitely more than a candidate’s hateful politics; or, with trump, a candidate who seeks by his words to divide race and class, all done while trumpeting his perverted Philosophy of Me. As a results, the expectation from viewers of a presumed moral standard at MSNBC, such as fairness in campaign coverage, proved illusionary.
But while trump has made cable ratings soar and advertising revenues increase, the return to trump, the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal,” has been $1.9 billion in free television time, says mediaQuant.
Not a bad deal, and MSNBC executives, producers, and on-air talent, existing in a moral vacuum, were only too happy to make the deal – not only happy to make it, but to keep on making it.
The amount of coverage extended to trump, not just by MSNBC, but Fox, CNN, and the networks, dwarfs that of all other candidates.
According to mediaQuant, the amount of free coverage given Secretary Clinton is $746 million, while Senator Sanders received $321 million (or $156 million less in free media given Taylor Swift).
Am I saying that donald trump is wholly a media creation?
No, of course not.
Donald trump was given a big presence on television before he decided to run for president and “Make America Great Again.”
I am saying, however, that absent the 24/7 coverage he’s received -- the $1.9 billion in free air time -- he would not have emerged as the front-runner of the Republican Party and, as it now seems, the GOP’s nominee for president.
But while I saw trump as a force in Republican Party’ presidential politics, beginning in June of ’15, I never thought there was any chance he would become their nominee – and certainly never, ever, thought there was any chance he might become president.
Now, I’m not so sure.
He embodies the worst hateful elements of our country’s past and present, racism, nativism, and hatred of Muslims and Mexicans, while representing a profound ignorance of the world beyond our borders and of realpolitik.
Those of us who believe we represent progressive and enlightened views of our country and the world beyond, who have an understanding of and tolerance for humankind, need a reality check.
We’ve been too quick to dismiss and reject those among us, whom H.L. Mencken called the “great unwashed,” and arrogantly thought our numbers superior to theirs; that the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the history of the world, would never, ever, elect as president the likes of donald trump.
And the good and enlightened people of Germany, ever dismissive of corporal Schicklgruber, never, ever thought Adolf Hitler would become Reich Chancellor of the Weimar Republic.
The fear I now have about the November election has come upon me very sudden. What I considered impossible, may now be probable – donald trump as the 45th President of the United States.
I entitled this column, “What Now?”
Perhaps, a better title would have been, “What Then?”