During these politically tumultuous times, if you turn on the news for just five minutes, you’re undoubtedly going to see one of two things: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. With fewer than 50 days until this bizarre, unprecedented presidential election, it’s understandable that the media is in a frenzy to cover it as much as possible before November 8th.
However, if you see Donald Trump on your TV screen, another likelihood is that you’re going to hear him bashing the very news outlets upon which he is broadcast. You will see him mercilessly critiquing the “liberal” media – the great, evil entity that has thwarted Trump from squashing Hillary Clinton. The media that has rigged the polls and painted him as a horrible monster. The media that is “gaming the system” and fixing this election.
And yet, the same media that Trump so vocally and consistently attacks has been instrumental in Trump’s ascension to the Republican Presidential nomination.
During the primaries, almost every statement out of Trump’s mouth was laughably provocative. Some of us were amused. Look at this orange-tinted buffoon calling millions of people rapists. Politics has never been so ridiculous! We chuckled at this incomprehensible mess of a presidential candidate, sat back in our chairs, and waited for the main event to show up.
We watched and were surprised when Jeb Bush dropped out. We began to sweat as Marco Rubio and Ben Carson were asphyxiated by what was supposed to be the sideshow. But the terror truly began to swirl in our stomachs as Ted Cruz and John Kasich lost the Indiana primary – as well as the will to carry on with their candidacies. Trump became the Presumptive Republican Nominee, to the shock of everyone and no one.
It was a shock to everyone, because, well…he’s Donald Trump! He’s a poofy-haired, unnaturally-hued bully who bought and insulted his way through a political campaign. He was in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” for God’s sake! He can’t be the President of the United States. He just can’t…
And yet, his nomination was to the surprise of no one. For almost a full year, from June of 2015 to May of 2016, Donald Trump’s antics plagued our television screens. It was a horrifying eleven month cycle of “listen to what Donald Trump said this time!” followed by a week of arbitrary, redundant “analysis.” And right when the story would die down and we would approach the light of SUBSTANCE off in the distance, Trump would insultingly imitate a disabled reporter and the whole thing would start right back up again.
That was how Donald Trump got the Republican Nomination. He hollered and screamed for a whole year, making himself seem like a human aneurysm ready to explode at any moment. Everytime he’d spew another one of signature insults, we’d look at each other and say, “Okay, this is it. He cannot come back from this one.”
Every time, we would say this. And every time, his poll numbers would do nothing but rise. There was a time where Trump could have fulfilled his infamous hyperbole: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Hearing that from a presidential candidate was shocking and appalling, but it was not necessarily untrue.
Ironically, that statement may have even earned Donald Trump more voters. The controversiality of Trump’s words restarted the cycle of superfluous micro-analyzing, giving him another week’s worth of free advertising.
More irony: Donald Trump is an alleged billionaire, worth many times more than Hillary Clinton. However, Clinton has raised twice as much money as Trump, and she is spending 11 times more than him in North Carolina, 11.6 times more than him in Ohio, 12.5 times more in Pennsylvania, and a whopping 52 times more than Trump in the crucial state of Florida. Donald Trump didn’t buy a single campaign advertisement until August, and he is slated to spend only $6.8 million on television ads in the time before November 8th, versus Clinton’s $143.2 million (which is 21 times larger than Trump’s figure).
The media has reported Donald Trump’s low spending numbers with incredulity. If he has so much money, why on earth wouldn’t he be spending it on campaigning?! My response is in the form of a question: why would you spend money on something that you’re already getting unlimited amounts for free? The non-stop network news coverage of Donald Trump – with a few brief interludes to update America on the utterly overblown Hillary Clinton email “scandal” – lasted for an entire year.
Of course, much of the press was negative. Stations like MSNBC (even Joe Scarborough caved eventually) would bring out panels of liberals to diagnose Trump as a pathological liar and a sociopath. They would publicly pronounce his unelectability and call for the American people to make the right decision: a Clinton Presidency.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump embodies the age-old adage “any publicity is good publicity.” If you’re anything like me, you turned on the television for the speeches and then turned it off again once the round table was dragged out. It’s much easier to get a sound byte stuck in people’s brains than the detailed, analytical critiques of the ideas themselves.
The media seems to be catching onto the game now. When entering the ballroom where Donald Trump held his press conference two Fridays ago, many reporters realized that they were being duped. The brief meeting where Trump “finished” the birtherism debate started with a thirty second blurb from the presidential nominee. After that, he stepped back, far away from the line of fire, as other speakers distracted from the falseness of Trump’s comments on the birtherism timeline. The press conference ended with Trump scurrying out of the room, away from the reporters and any opportunity for them to call him on his lies.
That brings us to the present day, less than two months away from the 2016 Presidential election. If we lived in a different world, perhaps the media would not have constantly fed a sensationalist demagogue in an attempt to boost ratings. Donald Trump would have been seen as the joke he is, and another candidate would be preparing to take the stage at tomorrow’s debate. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. The media sold out, and now the dangerous Donald Trump is trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls by a few measly percentage points.
However, it’s not too late. Let me just say to media everywhere, there’s still time to make amends. I understand that now, a few weeks from Election Night, is the best time for non-stop Trump coverage. But we know Mr. Trump. He’s the name on everybody’s lips. If you cut down on the monitoring of his every inconsequential move for the next 43 days, we’ll still remember who he is.
But if you must keep covering him all day long, please, please talk about the issues. Talk about content. These days, when Trump insults innocents and entire ethnic groups, no one gives a damn. It obviously makes no difference to people that he’s unpresidential and “unelectable” (he’s definitely not that anymore). The last hope for the integrity of the news industry, for our faith in the government, and for our entire Republic is that this election finally gets back to things that matter.
Call out Donald Trump, the human embodiment of ignorance, on his constant shit. Don’t spend hours going into the weeds of how provocative and offensive the things he says are. Don’t invite Kellyanne Conway onto your shows (I’m looking at you, Bill Maher). Do your jobs: fact-check the lies, say what’s true, and get back to the news.
We’re almost at the finish line. These are the weeks that make or break the United States of America. It’s up to the media to finally uphold their responsibility to this nation. The first debate is tomorrow. Prove to this country that the Fourth Estate is still capable of enlightening us with facts and objectivity, that it cares about honesty and truth, and that it will no longer aid and abet Donald Trump in his quest to claim the White House.