With Donald Trump locking up the Republican nomination and Hillary Clinton maintaining a large delegate lead on the Democratic side, many on the left are giddily starting to plan another four years in the White House.
On the surface it makes sense because Trump – who is about 207398x more offensive than Mitt Romney – would have to win record numbers of African Americans, Hispanics, and women that Republicans have failed to win in the last two elections in order to win in 2016. In addition, the Democrats have a built-in electoral advantage with Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania fading from purple to blue.
All that being said, with roughly 180 days until the election there is much to be worried about.
- First, each candidate basically starts with 40% of the vote. A commentator on MSNBC recently pointed out that a piece of paper could earn 40% of the Republican vote just for having an (R) written on it.
- Second, if Trump’s boorishness becomes normalized, the shock value wears off, and people consider that vociferousness the norm, he will begin to rise slowly but surely.
- Lastly and most importantly, the media demands a competitive narrative and a blowout race doesn’t fit that bill. Cable news will pitch this as a neck and neck horse race between equals and plug their ears when anyone tries to say differently.
Trump’s campaign lifted off in a way that would have seen any other campaign imploding back into the launchpad. In his announcement speech he declared Mexican’s to be rapists and then before the primaries started called for a ban on Muslim immigration and mocked and insulted John McCain and a disabled reporter. The media wagged a finger at him and allowed him to bulldoze his way through the controversy. Those comments now only survive as prefaces in articles like this.
Think about that. In past years candidates have lost races for gaffes half that insulting. Remember Todd Akin and “legitimate rape”? Or Richard Mourdock and his assertion that a child born from rape is a gift from God? In 2012 each of those comments sunk a campaign despite attempts to apologize. Trump in turn, doubled down on his remarks. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
This past February, Trump began a habit of telling folks at his rallies to physically assault protesters. In Burlington, Vermont he told police to withhold jackets from those kicked out so that they would freeze in the winter air. Then, in Las Vegas, he declared that he wished he could punch a guy in the face. At this point, Trump had made so many comments like this the media quite literally laughed it off.
Once again, think about that. Someone is running to be leader of the free world, yet is acting like a caricature of an African dictator and the media’s response is to make a joke and then ask in all seriousness if it helped him politically. There are not two sides to every story, some things are just wrong.
As the summer progresses and the leaves begin to fall, prepare yourselves to no longer see anything he says treated with shock. Don’t believe me? In the 1960’s The Beatles “I want to hold your hand” was considered to be pushing the envelope of decency and then in 2006 a song titled “I wanna f**k you” reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Donald Trump just did that to politics in nine months.
Part of the reason the media can’t condemn every offensive remark Trump makes is because it would create an appearance of partiality and a blowout race doesn’t make for exciting media coverage. CNN didn’t pour $50 million into covering the election to declare Hillary Clinton the president in July.
David Roberts over at Vox wrote a very smart piece on how this will play out over the next few months. For example, despite the overwhelming breadth of knowledge Clinton has in foreign policy, the media will recite her platform and then allow Katrina Pierson or some other Trump mouthpiece to present the opposite view uninterrupted and unchallenged. In no way, shape, or form is comparing Trump’s “like, really smart” opinions with Clinton’s vetted, real life experience like comparing apples to apples. It’s like comparing an apple to a rotten, fly infested banana.
These kinds of comparisons give Trump an air of legitimacy that could help him pick off Republican leaning independents and others who might otherwise be in the “Never Trump” camp. By making him appear equal to a former Senator, Secretary of State, and First Lady, they are allowing fringe voters to make the justification that he is a suitable alternative to the Democratic candidate. He is not.
It is a long, muddy road to the election and six months is more than enough time for everything to go to hell in a hand-basket, especially when the basket is already woven. Despite the inherent electoral and decency advantage the Democrats currently hold, the blabbering, endless fountain of meaningless noise that is cable television will undoubtedly make this contest closer than it ever should be.
Democrats are probably okay to put the champagne on ice, but I wouldn’t pop any bottles just yet.
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Photo credit: REUTERS/JIM YOUNG