The Trump story reaches the meta stage

In some media stories that generate a lot of attention over a long period despite not producing a corresponding amount of news, at some point the stories go meta and the discussion shifts to the coverage of the coverage and the question gets shifted to whether the topic deserves that level of attention and whether the nature of that coverage is appropriate.

We have reached that stage with Trumpalooza, with suggestions that he does not deserve this amount of coverage and that it only serves to feed his massive ego. I have no opinion on the second issue but am puzzled by the first complaint, that there is too much about Trump. Kevin Drum seems to think that enough is enough and says that there is a simple way to reduce the amount of coverage and that is not to cover him at all.

But why is coverage of Trump seen as not newsworthy? Surely it is a major story when an outsider to the political party structure enters the race for the nomination for president of one of the two major parties and within the space of a month vaults to the top of the polls, completely eclipsing the people who had been carefully planning their campaigns for years. Surely that is a big story, irrespective of whether one thinks he is a suitable candidate or not?

Trump is now the front-runner for the Republican nomination and surely deserves as much coverage as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination Hillary Clinton. In fact, given that he is far more accessible to the media and is much less scripted and guarded than Clinton about his beliefs, the amount of coverage seems reasonable to me.

Those moaning the supposedly excessive coverage seem to think that he somehow doesn’t deserve it. The suggestion seems to be that his current dominance of the Republican polls is due to his getting so much media attention rather than the reverse, him getting so much attention because of his success. They feel disdain for him as not being somehow worthy of being ahead in the polls and that his presence is somehow demeaning the political process. This is a bit ironic when the Republican party’s long-standing practice of using over-the-top rhetoric on a range of issues long ago put that supposed dignified process in the gutter. They live in glass houses and should be wary of targeting Trump. Jeb Lund looks at all the counter-attacks that Trump can hit the other Republican candidates with if they try to attack him and concludes, “Donald Trump isn’t movement conservatism malfunctioning. He’s what happens after five decades of it working. It’s gonna take a lot of brass for GOP candidates to attack the thing they made.”

But in addition, surely it is for the electorate to judge Trump’s worthiness, not the political establishment. The Washington beltway feeling seems to be that he is totally a creature of the media and that the media should now act in concert to push him out of the race. In suggesting this, they are reinforcing the perception that high elected office is a game that only the elite gatekeepers get to decide who gets to play. Whatever one thinks of Trump the person or of what he is advocating, he surely has as much right to make his case as anyone else. If his rivals are not as adept at getting media coverage, that is surely not his fault.

The real story with Trump is what it says about the state of American politics and its political media, that someone who has an inconsistent and incoherent platform but a lot of money can so successfully tap into people’s prejudices by speaking in an unfiltered and direct way.

Sam Wang’s analysis (thanks to commenter ollie nanyes for the link) that Trump is close to his ceiling for support and that as other candidates fall away, their support will shift to candidates other than Trump and that he will lose his poll dominance is plausible, but until that actually manifests itself, we will have to wait and see and not prejudge the situation.


  1. Chiroptera says

    Huh. If the media were to refuse to give any oxygen to political positions that are irresponsible by any sane measure and refuse to acknowledge candidates for office that are using politics to boost their own bloated egos, then none of us would pretty much hear anything at all about any of the Republican candidates.

  2. says

    Yeah, because the republican party traditionally is the party that tells their people not to say outrageous stuff.

    They’re just trolls that are mad because Trump is out-trolling them.

  3. Daniel Schealler says

    All Trump is doing is speaking to the Republican voter base without the use of dog-whistles.

    That’s what makes him a double-whammy embarrassment to the GOP. Firstly, he pulls away the mask of respectability, which is bad enough. But secondly, he’s the leading candidate not in spite of this, but rather because of it.

    The GOP is merely reaping what they have sowed among their voter base for years.

    It would be totally amusing except for the vanishingly slim but still nonzero chance that Trump actually could wind up as the POTUS.

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