2016 election, Donald Trump, Gang of Eight, Im-Politic, Immigration, Jeb Bush, Jobs, John Kasich, Mainstream Media, Marco Rubio, offshoring, Republicans, Trade, Trans-Pacific Partnership, wages, white mortality
Let’s put it this way: If you gave me the power to create a politician with an ideal presidential personality, the product wouldn’t be an identical twin of Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong: I’m fine with an in-your-face style generally speaking, and in politics in particular. In fact, given the abject failures of conventional politicians across the political spectrum combined with their continued sense of entitlement and arrogance, I think it’s great that Trump is blasting and ridiculing their pretensions of competence and claims to special degrees of respect.
At the same time, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly here at RealityChek, too many of Trump’s remarks have been thoughtless and gratuitously mean-spirited. Worse, with just a little premeditation and deftness, he could have made the same points about his critics in Democratic and Republican ranks, and in the Mainstream Media, with just as much force and far wider appeal. Ditto for more policy-oriented statements on issues ranging from Mexican immigrants to databases for Muslim Americans. (He’s walked back the latter, but clearly endorsed the idea in an off-the-cuff – and thoughtless – answer to a question.) This kind of carelessness is worrisome because it’s unnecessarily divisive at home, and can be dangerous in international affairs, where presidential language can make the difference between war and peace, and send dangerously confusing or completely misleading signals to allies and adversaries alike.
So clearly it’s time for Trump to up his game if he’s going to expand his following, and deserve the trust of enough Americans to win the Republican nomination and go on to the White House.
But it’s time for Trump’s enemies in the media, which plays an especially important role in our democracy, and in the political arena to up their game, too. The former need to stop hysterically seizing on every intemperate – and even childish – statement made by Trump as a sign of utter disqualification for political office, much less a sign of incipient fascism. Ditto for their descriptions of his followers as racists and even proto-Nazis.
In fact, if they want the increasingly heated, angry tone of American politics these days dialed down, maybe they could shine their spotlight more brightly and more consistently on the economic losses suffered by too many middle class and working class American voters for decades, and on their devastating impact (which goes far beyond lower living standards to include family break-ups and other social pathologies, deteriorating health, and even greater mortality).
They could also take with some seriousness the fears of comparably large numbers of Americans about the nation’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks; about the wisdom of admitting much greater numbers of Middle Eastern refugees despite major misgivings about security screening procedures expressed by President Obama’s advisers; and about Mr. Obama’s adamant insistence that the situation is in fact under control, and that doubters are betraying the nation’s leading ideals.
Just looking at the economics of this campaign year, here’s one admittedly imperfect but revealing sign of the media’s skewed priorities. If you Google “Trump” and “Nazi,” you get 16.1 million results. If you Google “white mortality,” you get 17,000 results. That latter phrase refers to a recent study co-authored by the latest recipient of the Nobel prize for economics showing that mounting economic strains are literally killing larger and larger numbers of middle aged white Americans. And you wonder why Trump voters – who come frequently from those ranks – feel angry and ignored?
Politicians deserve more indulgence, since they’re under no professional obligations to be accurate or objective. But they can up their game in similar ways. If Republicans, in particular, are genuinely alarmed at the prospect of a Trump victory, maybe they could spend less time vilifying the front-runner and more time proposing policies that could respond to their needs.
Interestingly, a growing number of GOP presidential candidates are now registering opposition to amnesty-friendly, Open Borders-style immigration policies – even Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that tried to steer such legislation through Congress. Moreover, several have also – so far – turned their back on President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, normally the kind of offshoring-focused trade agreement that they and their Big Business funders consistently demand.
Just as interestingly, however, the apparently converted don’t include either former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or current Ohio Governor John Kasich. Both keep touting the virtues of trade policies that are proven job-, wage-, and growth killers, and immigration policies with similar effects. And both have been among the loudest (and angriest) anti-Trump voices. Maybe if they stopped shilling for the intertwined offshoring and Cheap Labor lobbies, they might actually start eating into Trump’s lead. Or at least their poll numbers might break out of single digit-territory. But so far, it seems like they’re doubling down on demonizing Trump. Reportedly, there’s big money behind these escalating efforts. Maybe if they helicopter it on primary days, they could even buy a few voters.