An argument to begin ignoring Donald Trump.
The Republicans will never impeach him.
“Democrats in Denial” (Damon Linker, The Week, Oct. 25, 2017), is a powerful indictment of the way in which Democrats have, over the past 11 months, focussed so hard on the behaviour of Donald Trump that they have stopped doing the hard work of getting back into power. Their focus on Trump is actively preventing them from building the platform necessary to launch successful campaigns to get Democrats elected.
If the Democratic Party believes that a Republican Congress will impeach a Republican President, they are living in a fantasy world. The death-rattle protestations of Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are not symptomatic of the Party as a whole: incumbent Republicans are far more keen on power than they are on chastising one of their own. It might make them morally unconscionable, but they are the ones in office up and down the country. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Fuel on the flames
Analysis by the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive Television News Archive, shows conclusively that Trump had the lion’s share of television news media coverage in the run-up to the nomination and as such that coverage could be blamed for his victory in that contest. As President of the United States, he is reported upon de facto, but the carpet bombing approach of the media keeps him in the spotlight far more than he merits. And of course Trump pours gasoline on those flames: he desperately wants to be front page news.
Trump seems to have spent more of his career building his brand than he has ever done building... actual buildings. It looks like he realised very early on that if you aren’t top of mind, you are nowhere. Pre-social media Trump relied on traditional media which he exploited ruthlessly to further his brand of belligerent, alpha-male capitalism, with Miss World and The Apprentice. As President Obama came to power, and the voice of Fox News became more and more popular, it, of course, made sense for the archetypal self-promoter to go where the audience was. He became a regular pundit based largely on his ability to say what less politically correct interviewees would not.
As the social media age dawned — remember that Twitter is only ten years old —, Trump found a new way to be ‘always on.’ He sent his first tweet in May 2009 and to date has sent over 36 thousand of them. Which is an extraordinary average of over ten tweets a day for nine years. It is very clear that he craves attention, subscribes to the view that all publicity is good publicity, and courts controversies so that the media will pick them up and report them. The way he has used traditional media in lock-step with his social media is a marketing case study in amplifying a brand. How much of this is attributable to any genius of Trump and how much to his team is irrelevant. He needs attention, and he is getting it like no public figure before him.
Time to stop
The police frequently beseech the news media to refrain from mentioning the name of a murderer or terrorist in the belief that the exposure may be one of the motivations for the act, and that the oxygen that the coverage and name recognition gives to the crime can be an important factor in motivating copy cats. Similarly, short-term suicide rates often spike when there is over-reporting of a suicide.
Imagine if you will, a scenario where the coverage of Trump by traditional media reflects his achievements and accomplishments in office. Imagine that when he does something controversial, like withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, or refuses to recertify the Iran Deal, those incidences are reported as news only; that the actor is removed from the scene. Imagine if the only articles that mentioned Trump talked only about what he was doing that was important. Imagine the end of opinion pieces like this one.
The counter-argument, of course, is that the media must bear witness to this aberration, to this continued abuse of power, and to the daily debasement of his office. It is a strong argument; that the Fourth Estate shines a light in the darkness, that to not decry every one of his foul actions is to be somehow complicit. But there is a level of proportionality in coverage that needs to be rebalanced. While the Trump presidency may be as compelling as any other car-crash television, even the most avid viewer must feel the urge to turn away at some point.
In a sense, while his office commands attention, it should command a very narrow attention. The office of President is the executive branch of government, nothing more, nothing less. Journalists working inside the beltway could do more to focus only on what the president is executing. There will still be plenty of scope for reporting and journalism, and the extra focus might make that journalism better, more rigorous, tighter and more focussed.
Without continued media amplification, Trump would be denied a key source of fuel. And that can only be a good thing; to leave him screaming into a void.🔷
Donald Trump's caricature. (Flickr / DonkeyHotey )