Media don’t want to understand Trump voters
As the tax evasion trial of former presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort began, the Trump-hating Democratic Media Complex renewed its howls, hoping Manafort flips and gives up Trump’s head.
Mollie Hemingway, the conservative senior editor from The Federalist, asked a question on Twitter.
“At this point, I genuinely believe reporters/pundits truly don’t understand Donald Trump, his rhetoric, his administration, etc., and aren’t just pretending to be idiots,” Hemingway wrote. “But my question is why they continue to be paid to cover a man they clearly don’t understand in any way.”
Mollie, they’re not idiots. They’re journalists, highly educated, adept at social media, Washington networking and social gatherings, a class that has deferred to the establishment for generations.
The jokes they tell at the White House correspondent’s dinner and the show tunes they sing in costume at the Gridiron Dinner for the amusement of the ruling class are testament to their deference.
They understand the game, as it was played at Versailles, as it is played in Washington. They also understand that peeling the skin off Donald Trump and trolling the almost 63 million Americans who voted for him, drives viewership and internet clicks.
Trump calls the Washington press corps “the enemy of the people” and “fake news,” and they hate him right back, calling him dangerous and stupid, and by doing so, they call his voters stupid, and worse.
All 63 million of them.
Trump and journalism are now locked in a battle of excess and outrage with neither acquitting themselves particularly well.
Trump, with his constant tweeting and needy ego, has never even tried to be “presidential.”
And many if not most in the media have given up trying to be fair. Like liberal arts faculties at American colleges, much of American media begins on the left and proceeds ever leftward.
Early in the Trump administration, independent studies showed the coverage of the president was overwhelmingly negative. It was as negative as coverage of former President Barack Obama was fawning. Journalism still hasn’t reckoned with its obsequious coverage of Obama. Journalism has ignored it. And that’s understood, too.
So, what is bothersome isn’t that reporters and many pundits don’t understand Trump. I really don’t know who does understand him. He wasn’t my choice for president.
But what concerns me are his voters, our countrymen and women. That’s half of our nation. And what bothers me is that I really don’t think many in journalism want to understand them.
Shame them? Yes. Understand them? No.
But Trump’s voters know what put him in the White House. It wasn’t merely that Hillary Clinton was a lousy candidate. It was that Trump voters detested the crowd that backed her, loathed them; and those voters in turn were viewed as something to be stepped on, to be ridiculed for heresy.
By not wanting to understand them, I worry that journalism blinds itself to something very real, critical and, in the long term, dangerous in our nation: A simmering resentment against the establishment in much of red state America.
And it’s not going away even if Trump goes away.
What’s clear from the anti-Trump punditry is that Trump supporters are still detested; the working class, the suburbanites in high-tax blue states; the families in rural America, all painted with a broad brush and dismissed regularly by the pundit class as hateful, xenophobic and worse.
Because they think their country needs borders and that illegal immigration should have been stopped years ago? Because they like tax cuts? Because they like working after being without work for years?
Or, is it that for eight years, as they were hurting, they watched a love affair between Obama and the media?
They read the papers. They watch TV. They hear the late-night talk show comedians mocking them. They read pundits who ridicule them. They understand shame all too well. Cultural elites may have given up on old-fashioned concepts like honor. But shame? Shame is a useful lash.
Think back on the ridicule that Hillary Clinton, the establishment Democrat of 2016, heaped on Trump voters when she called them “deplorables.”
It wasn’t what Clinton said, alone, that bothered those 63 million voters. Many were shocked by Trump’s manner, by his bragging, his rude behavior, reference to his hand size, his boorishness, the way he treated women.
And still they voted for him. Why? Because they loathed the other side more. They loathed the establishment. They loathed the media. And their reservations about Trump were washed away by the laughter following Clinton’s “deplorables” line.
Think back on that laughter, on that giggling when she talked of “deplorables.” What followed were the snickers of the clique who get the joke at the expense of those who don’t.
That laughter stuck. And Trump voters took the memory of it to the polls on Election Day. Clinton won the popular vote, but Trump voters overwhelmingly gave him the Electoral College victory.
Now, Democrats are lathered up with the trial of this B-movie villain, this Manafort, whose alleged crimes took place long before he worked a few months for Trump.
Let’s say their Manafort fantasies come true, and he cuts a deal, and he serves Trump to special prosecutor Robert Mueller and the orange presidential head is placed upon a platter.
What do you do with the millions who voted for Trump? Mock them into submission? Have them grovel and beg forgiveness before they’re re-educated?
You don’t have to understand Trump. But it’s dangerous not to understand the 63 million who voted for him. They’re not going into exile. They’re here.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His Twitter handle is @john_kass.