Friday, July 7, 2017
Media and the US Political Process.
One of the principles of the US political process has been the process of accountability of politicians and government by the vast and power media. To the purists the power of the press as been seen as an important watchdog over executive power enshrining the principle of free speech into a legal right, thus giving it unmatched ability to not only question but even bring down political figures. Gary Hart, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton all faced the sanctions of the press and these episodes exhibited to the average thinking American that there was someone outside the political process speaking out for the excesses of politicians.
The emergence of Donald Trump onto the political scene in a sense changed the working formula between the press and the politician. While today we are overloaded with the jargon of 'fake news' and 'alternative facts', there has been something more interesting happening. When Trump announced his intent to run for President most felt that not only was it a far fetched idea he also would be the largest target for the press to go after, his bankruptcies, his treatment of women, his almost xenophobic and racist view, all suggested he would be brought down by the press before he even finished spelling the words PRESIDENT, (assuming he could spell).
Then something quite unique happened. Trump knowingly or unknowingly, started to use the press, yes the very press who could target him, to manufacture consent amongst the public. In the backdrop of the political climate of the US, he enraged the liberal within us, and was embraced by the disfranchised American who seemed betrayed by the political process. When he claimed he would 'drain the swamp' in Washington DC, he spoke out what millions of Americans felt that there was a stinking swamp in DC. When he went after the Mexicans and talked of wall be appealed to the millions of Americans, who rightly or wrongly felt they lost their job to the illegal immigrants. When he painted a religion as 'terrorist' and called for a total ban on all Muslims from entering the US, he voiced what many not familiar with the rise of terrorism were really thinking.
As Trump became more bizarre in his comments and approach the press actually gave him more press coverage! WHY? Simply put as much as the liberal press wanted to go after Trump they knew this outrageous, politically incorrect and often factually off the mark candidate was getting more eyeballs to their channels and newsprint. To media advertising revenue is important and to get that they need eyeballs. The more they fed the news, even if ridiculing Trump, the monster became larger and larger. In a sense it was the Press that created Trump, gave him a media mandate he could not have bought for all the dollars in the world. I believe in that sense the very networks Trumps calls 'fake news' are the ones who created him, and in a sense helped him win the hearts and minds of the unheard vote within America.
On a broader front the political climate into which Trump was stirring the press was fraught with its own problems. The Democratic Party was divided in a more deeper sense than was visible on the surface. Eight years of Obama's administration had in a sense ignored its constituency and the party organization at the state and county level in key states seemed to have been ignored. Hilary Clinton represented a political segment which largely was considered out of touch with the blue collared workers who had been behind the Obama revolution, and too entrenched with the vested interests within the Democratic Party resulting in Bernie Sanders as the voice for the very workers that felt had been ignored by the likes who those who threw in their lot with Hilary Clinton.
It would not be incorrect to say that the Clinton camps shenanigans robbed Bernie Sanders of the nomination and in that one move stepped further away from the very blue collared workers who then swayed to the Trump camp. Hilary's own problems with emails, and lack of focus on the issues all played out in a back drop where Trump was winning over the unheard, making statements and promises that seemed stretched but by then the electorate really did not care.
I have no doubt in my mind that the moment Hilary Clinton hijacked the nomination from Bernie Sanders she lost the heart of the Democratic Party. I also believe that Trump could not have romped into the White House had he been facing off Bernie Sanders. While the Democrats have to reinvent themselves and go back to the grassroots with a fresh approach the media on the other hand has three and half years of waltzing to learn with a Trump who will always be out of step with them.
The media also has to do a major rethink of their role and in a sense bring in a more balanced approach. Feeding the monster will only make it larger than it is, and while resetting the relationship may not be easy it would help if the media realized they were a part of the circus that created the consent that took Trump to the path of the White House.