My father, who would have been 79 this week, was an enthusiastic Trump supporter. He died in October 2016, and, not being a resident of Chicago was unable to participate in the fall election, but in the primary earlier that year he voted for him proudly.
He was not a man to keep his opinions to himself. The prospect of a Trump presidency excited him, as he would tell anyone who would listen because it presented the best chance in some time to get the folks in Washington in line.
That, I suspect, is what a lot of people who voted for Trump believed. What he and they forget is that the Washington establishment—the poly-partisan conglomeration of policymakers, bureaucrats, professional thinkers, journalists, lobbyists, lackeys and other denizens of what the president and his supporters refer to as “The Swamp”—was not going to go down quietly. They can and will fight back against any real effort at reform, not because they believe it is good policy to do so (though they may truly believe that to be the case) but because it is in their inherent financial, social, and professional interests to do so.
Let’s stipulate for purposes of this column that the president is as awful as many of his detractors make him out to be. That he is deliberately divisive. That his tweets offend. That he is as arrogant as the essayists who write think pieces in journals devoted to social commentary make him out to be. Does that mean he’s also wrong about everything?
I submit the answer to that is “No.” Look around you. The economy, which was flat on its back during the entire Obama presidency, is once again roaring. Rather than celebrate that fact through, let’s say, enterprise reporting at the major cable news networks on the subject of “America Back to Work—How and Why Did It Happen?” we’re told at best the good news won’t last.
Does this reflect a liberal bias in the media? Yes, I suspect, but add to that the antipathy most reporters on the national beat and in the national spotlight seem to have for Trump. It is as though they propped him up during the early part of the primaries hoping he would lead the Republican Party down the pathway to implosion, ensuring the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton and at least another four years of progressive policies that were, among other things, destroying middle America.
Oops. That didn’t exactly work out as planned and so, possibly as repentance, the folks who congregate in the White House briefing room and their colleagues beyond are doing all they can to discredit him. The president helps, of course, giving them more than enough material to work with, but can anyone honestly deny they’ve taken the traditional adversarial position to extremes never seen in this country?
It’s a safe bet that the Trump supporters who read this will agree, while those opposed to the president personally will probably think I should be locked up somewhere. But there are those in the middle, those who don’t like him but generally approve of the direction in which things are headed and who really do still consider both sides of any equation.
They aren’t sure, one way or the other. And they’re right to be confused. Trump uses his Twitter feed and his rallies and statements to establish a narrative. The media, writ large, use their interaction with the American people to set another. Mainstream media is clearly opposed, from an editorial standpoint and in some reportage, to the president personally.
This hasn’t escaped people’s attention. This week, an IPSOS poll of adults nationwide found 48 percent agreeing with the statement “Most news outlets have a liberal bias.” Only 19 percent said they didn’t. In the same survey, 43 percent said, “The mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly.” 39 percent said it didn’t, which, to be as precise as possible, is a tricky question to answer because it turns on how people define “unfairly.”
The problem, if there is one, is that not enough people allow their skepticism of the way Trump is treated and their awareness of media bias to process the way they perceive the news. Instead of looking for a more complete and thorough analysis, liberals and conservatives alike seek out news sources that confirm their bias. That’s not healthy for the democratic process.
My father, who came from nothing, worked hard for most of his life in pursuit of the American Dream. I like to think he achieved it. And he resented greatly those who suggested he ought to feel guilty somehow that he’d made it while others didn’t. He was a wise man, something I wish I’d been more cognizant of when he was still alive. He could see through the distortions, largely by thinking for himself. I sincerely hope that’s not a trait that’s not becoming uncommon. If it is, the next president, Republican or Democrat, will continue to fail in the face of mindless polarization, fed and watered by those who write the national narrative.