Since the start of his presidency, Donald Trump has been a highly polarising figure. Like his predecessors in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, he is subject to constant and quite critical coverage. However, he has never lost the support of that hardcore Republican base. These are the voters who supported (and still support) Trump not despite his bigotry, racism and general lack of intelligence (all true), but because of it. They support him not because they see him as the brick through the establishment window; they do not care about that. No; they support Trump because he is the Id of the Republican party. He is the unrestrained, unapologetic representation of those core values that they espouse. After seeing Republicans for decades being coded in their bigotry and social regression, these rubes now have the real thing in Donald Trump; and they love him for it.
The ‘Values Voters’ and Trump
You might be asking yourself ‘what is this id of the Republican party’ that Trump represents so perfectly? It is quite simple: unfiltered, unapologetic white, male Christian supremacy. In his rhetoric, Trump constantly attacks women (using terms like pig and dog), people who are not white (black NFL protesters were ‘ungrateful’ – not quite uppity – but pretty close) and Muslims (the ‘total and complete shutdown’).
The hardcore base, what Keith Olbermann many years ago called ‘those poor, dumb, manipulated bastards’, loves this part of Trump. Indeed, they love it so much that they will look past (or even ignore) his constant lies, his faux populism and his genuine stupidity. He gives them what they want, and it makes the Libtards cry. What more could a rube ask for? To borrow from Animal Farm, Trump is the Napoleon to the Sheep that are the Republican base. He panders to the very worst of their impulses and desires and they mindlessly support him, even if it kills them. Four legs good, two legs bad.
‘Fighting Trump’, Pt One: The Media’s Role
Part of the reason I think Trump pursues this strategy (assuming there is any planning involved) is because of how the media attacks him. It is the equivalent of fighting a fire with gasoline. Look at this racist/sexist thing the President tweeted, they screech. What they do not seem to realise is that this is precisely why his base loves him. You are not going to turn them away from him by pointing out what they like about him. As for the rest of the nation, I imagine they have known the terrible person Trump was since early in the campaign, to say nothing of what he has done in office. So to whom are you speaking? Who is your target audience for all this outrage over non-issues?
Now while it is true that there are examples of Trump being genuinely unintelligent, and the media does give those some attention, a lot of the criticism is trite nonsense, particularly around the racist and sexist content (keep reading). Ok, so the President is a racist. Even if we grant that, it does not break the country, except as it translates into policy. Now, Trump’s policy has been far from ideal, but it is not as though he is the first racist to ever be President. To hear the media tell it, Trump is the most racist President in American history.
‘Fighting Trump’, Pt. Two: Safe Topics
Let us back up here. I am not defending the man by any stretch: I believe his term in office has been marked by a hawkish foreign policy, environmental destruction through deregulation and an utterly oligarchic and plutocratic economic policy. But that is precisely the point. Do you notice that you rarely, if ever, hear any criticism of the President on those matters in the corporate media? Do you ever hear any substantive criticism of his deregulation? His tax cuts for the rich? Or his utter selling out to the military industrial complex? Or Wall St?
No – and I will tell you why. Those same corporations to whom Donald Trump is beholden either own or have serious influence with the media companies. Whether it is Comcast or some other media conglomerate, they are doing quite well out of this kleptocracy thank you very much, so those topics are best left undiscussed if you plan to keep your job. The media has essentially gone from the watchdog of those in power, to their lap dog. Avoiding like the plague any substantive conversation of policies that would actually help the wage slaves.
This partially explains the focus on Trump’s racism, sexism and other non-issues. These topics are safe for corporate media to discuss because they involve no actual concrete policy issues. I would even extend the plethora of non-issues to Russia. What policy result does endless speculation and drumming up of Russia and the threat it does not pose achieve? Looking at you Rachel Maddow. When substance-free conversation takes up all the oxygen in a room, actual serious policy issues like Medicare4All, free university, a living wage, ending the wars and the actual substantive issues are drowned out.
Conclusion: Trump as the Ultimate Safe Topic
It is a strange irony indeed that Donald Trump himself is proving to be the ultimate safe topic for the media. They can discuss him personally until the proverbial cows come home and nothing will change in terms of policy.
Final observation: during the Republican primary in 2016, Hillary Clinton put Donald Trump forward as a ‘pied-piper candidate’. This refers to a candidate who was such a buffon that he would be easier to beat in the general (election). In a strange way, she turned out to be right. Donald Trump did indeed turn out to be the shiny distraction. Indeed, he was perhaps better at it than she intended.
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