Donald Trump has been such a political and moral calamity for conservatives that liberals have been free to ignore the failings of their own mendacious, corrupt candidate and the significant role they played in destroying trust in American institutions.
So forgive me if I don’t take liberal concern-trolling about the GOP’s wicked presidential choice too seriously. After all, even if Republicans had nominated the most qualified, competent, and chaste moderate in the existence of the republic, there still would be no #NeverHillary movement within the Democratic Party. No matter how many scandals were uncovered. No matter how many lies she told. What they’ve done is normalize Hillary’s behavior. Because Trump.
Actually, many of these same people treated a competent and ethically upright moderate like Mitt Romney just like they treat Trump. And even the most sexist-sensitive liberal would likely support a lecherous Bill Clinton over a virtuous Republican nominee. Because state power is the virtue. So spare us.
It’s been something to watch the media engage in this smug, self-satisfying, feigned outrage — much of it aimed at real Trump scandals, and plenty of it hyper-parsing and overreactions — after giving him nearly unlimited and uncritical airtime during the primaries to ensure his nomination for the ratings and to help Hillary.
Yes. The media is biased.
Biased against hatred, sexism, racism, incompetence, belligerence, inequality, To name a few.
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) October 16, 2016
In the old days, this kind of self-righteousness was typically followed with a vigorous Bible thumping. Today, lecturing the common folk about their decadent views is the rationale of contemporary journalism. All Trump has done is free big-media outlets from this irritating ritual of faking impartiality. Now they wrap bias in a moral imperative.
We should be thankful for the transparency. But many of us have no reason to trust Roberts’ relativistic understanding of hatred, sexism, racism, incompetence, belligerence, or inequality. Not because Trump hasn’t peddled some of these ‘isms for real, but because these words are often nothing more than vacuous or politically loaded terms meant to intimidate conservatives who fail to embrace liberal policy positions.
I suppose this wouldn’t be a such a serious problem if more journalists at these large institutions were also “biased against” attacks on free speech, the rule of law, religious freedom, checks and balances, and the right to self-defense. They aren’t. There is an obsession in political journalism with gotcha-ism — and by this I mean a Republican saying something politically incorrect will always be a bigger story than a Democrat doing something corrupt.
The Fix, over at the The Washington Post, warns that attacking the credibility of the media, as Trump has done incessantly (which is weird, considering he wouldn’t exist without them), is “genuinely dangerous for the long-term health of our democracy.”
A country without any independent arbiters of facts and truth is a place in which the possibility of civil discourse is impossible. In that world, the tribalism that has run rampant in our politics for the past decade-plus would become total as both sides operated from their own set of “facts” without the need of any referees. And, if you’ve ever watched a game without any agreed-upon rules or anyone to enforce those rules, you know it’s not a game at all but rather a total mess.
Too late. As it turns out, years of asymmetrical coverage has also been dangerous for the long-term health of our democracy. For all the good work some individual reporters do (and many important stories would never have been uncovered without them), the profession betrayed public trust a long time ago. I worked at a decent-sized newspaper for a number of years, and I could literally count the number of conservatives on one hand. There were probably others, of course. I imagine they valued their careers.
Actually, you don’t have to look further than the political contributions of journalists to understand the size of the problem. But you can also check out the John Podesta email leak, if you like, to see how Democrats work with reporters. You can read the Pulitzer Prize-winning “factcheckers” at PolitiFact to know everything is already messed up. Every unreasonable conspiracy theory peddled by Trump’s hardcore fans is partially fueled by a reasonable distrust the media has earned.
Obama, a man who advocated a fundamental transformation of the United States, is now horrified that Trump desires the same because “America is already great,” he claims. A few months ago the president claimed that Trump was an atypical Republican. Now he says the GOP nominee is a manifestation of the insanity of conservative politics. “This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again,” Obama said at a Hillary campaign event. “Look, I—and there’s sort of a spectrum, right—it’s a whole kind of ecosystem. And look, if I watched Fox News I wouldn’t vote for me.”
Well, Mr. President, they had to watch Fox News if they wanted to learn more about the litany of failings found in your sweeping health-care plan. They had to turn to Fox News to learn more about how your administration was investing in the Islamists of Iran or bribing them to release American hostages. It’s where a lot of Americans learned about your years of executive abuses. Elsewhere, these stories take a backseat to genderless bathrooms in North Carolina, which, evidently, is the civil rights story of our age.
There are swamps of crazy on both sides. And now, with defeat almost assured, Trump is now claiming that a “rigged” election and “large-scale voter” fraud is going to cheat him out of the presidency. The media is on Defcon 1000, because Trump is corroding trust in the institutions they care so much about.
If Trump is undercutting public trust in the electoral process, what were Democrats doing in 2000 when they launched a full court press on the veracity of a national election? It’s not simply that Al Gore challenged the results, which might be understandable, it’s that for years after liberal pundits and politicians kept alive the myth that the election had been stolen to delegitimize the president. We went through another round of this during John Kerry’s loss in 2004.
According to polls, Hillary won’t need any fraud to beat Trump. Far from it. The election is not rigged. But while there is no evidence of large-scale irregularities that would overturn a national election, the snickering media act as if any mention of fraud is a conspiracy theory. Fraud exists in our electoral process, because fraud exists in every human endeavor. Sometimes it has serious consequences.
This week, James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas Action released tapes of Democratic political operatives bragging about voter fraud and their ability to deploy “conflict engagement in the lines of Trump rallies.” If this story had been reversed, the nation would be thrust into a national conversation about Republican brownshirts and right-wing violence.
QUESTION: Why would liberals want to stoke violence at a Trump rally?
THEORY: To help Trump win the primary…. pic.twitter.com/QeQZ58EWDu
— Matt K. Lewis (@mattklewis) October 19, 2016
It’s more than bias, of course. Democrats and many in the media have spent years acting like anyone who advocates laws that ask people to show an ID before voting were supporting the new Jim Crow. Hillary’s contention that Republicans are “systemically and deliberately” seeking to stop black Americans is meant to incite anger in her base. Like fraud, racism exists in our system, but the idea that there’s a large-scale institutionalized effort to stop black Americans who want to cast a ballot from voting is an exaggeration meant to generate partisan outrage.
Whoever generates more outrage wins, though, I guess. In the end, culpability for Trump goes to GOP primary voters, the RNC, and many people in the conservative media establishment — though the mainstream media did plenty of the heavy lifting for them. All these people are also culpable for the election of Hillary Clinton, who will enter the White House as the most corrupt president in memory.
There is no moral equivalency between the two! Sure there is. Granted, their sins are different, both are dangerous to the health of American institutions. Just as the authoritarianism and incompetence of Trump scares people, Hillary’s authoritarianism and her extraordinary competence at slithering through the system should scare us.
A lot of people get mad at me for being Never Trump. They like to argue that we face a binary choice. But my aversion to both is not only merely ideological (though that’s a big part of it). More than any single policy, however, I value a two-party system that checks power. If Republicans start acting like Democrats, not only ideologically but tactically, there will be no restraints on this power. And not only has Trump made this a no-win situation, he’s given the state media the high ground it doesn’t deserve.