Reports by and about Cleo Paskal: Associate Fellow Chatham House, London, UK; Trudeau Fellow, CÉRIUM, Canada; Adjunct Faculty Manipal University, India. Author Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, And Political Crises Will Redraw The World Map.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Article: Constant media attacks cause Trump’s support to Harden (Sunday Guardian)
United States President Donald Trump gestures as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) stands next to him during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
As Ann Coulter wrote, ‘Every time I try to be mad at Trump, the media reel me back in by launching some ridiculous, unprovoked attack.’
OK, so we know what the Western mainstream media think of US President Donald Trump. Look at CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post or, for that matter, the BBC, the Canadian media, the French media, the Australian media, and so on. The negative adjectives, invectives and allegations fly fast and furious—and if distilled would probably sound something like “lock him up”. But they never liked him. And they certainly weren’t the ones who voted for him.
So the question is, what does Trump’s base think? From a legislative point of view, that’s the key question at the moment. The Republicans hold both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Any vote for impeachment, etc., would have to pass the Houses. While there are certainly many Republican Congress members who would happily vote against Trump, if they think he still has enough support in their home ridings to affect their re-elections, they’ll think twice. The midterm elections are in 2018.
So what does his base think? The majority of Trump’s base has a completely different set of parameters from the mainstream media by which they judge his performance.
The first one, on which he wins every time, is that he is not Hilary Clinton. As long as the memory of her campaign lingers, it reinvigorates his support. Which is why, if the Democrats are serious about winning over some of his voters, they need to be a lot more “Sanders” (Remember him? The mainstream media and the Democratic Party don’t seem to.) and a lot less Clinton.
Other priorities depend on the sub-group of supporters.
So far, to those who supported him based on getting a conservative a seat on the Supreme Court, he can say he delivered the perfect Justice. For those with concerns about terrorism, he can say that he’s trying, but is being stymied by the courts. For those who backed him on his anti-Obamacare platform, he can say he is trying, but is being slowed down by Congress. For those who want the wall—physical metaphor for secure borders—he can say the design competition has begun.
But after that, it gets complicated. And his current trip to the Middle East may muddy the waters even more.
Meanwhile, many supported him based on the perceived economic warfare of China. Conveniently for China, North Korea flared up, and Trump seems to be holding back on all he promised about China (declaring it a trade manipulator, imposing tariffs, etc.) in the hope that China will rein in the monster it helped create. If there continues to be no action by the time of the midterms, he may lose a lot of the people who voted for him the first time, because their factories had closed and moved to China, killing their towns and breaking their families. Some of them were potential Sanders voters.
The mainstream media in the US have already locked down the anti-Trump vote. If they really want to beat him, they need to win over some of his supporters. But the constant attacks just rally his troops even more.
Other supporters prioritised getting the US out of the Middle East in general (while supporting Israel) and Syria in particular. Which was why Trump’s strike on Syria over the alleged chemical attack shook so many of his supporters. It was exactly the sort of thing he said he wouldn’t do, and which set him apart from other candidates. It didn’t help Trump with his base that the mainstream media lauded his strike, with even CNN calling the action “Presidential”.
Luckily for Trump’s poll numbers, the mainstream media was soon attacking him again. Which is something those against him have yet to understand. And which is really the key to understanding his near term prospects. The mainstream media in the US have already locked down the anti-Trump vote. If they really want to beat him, they need to win over some of his supporters. But the constant attacks just rally his troops even more.
One of Trump’s most vocal supporters during the campaign was Ann Coulter, author of In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! She was among those who began to be concerned he was straying from his campaign promises. However, as she wrote in Breitbart: “Every time I try to be mad at Trump, the media reel me back in by launching some ridiculous, unprovoked attack.”
Similarly, AP reported that New York State Assemblyman Ron Castorina, who represents a district in “Trump Country”, blames Trump’s problems on mainstream media coverage that’s “damaging the country as a whole. Not only have I not heard of anyone turning their backs, I’ve seen people become more in solidarity with the president because they feel he’s getting a raw deal.”
The media attacks also seem to be hardening general Republican Party member support for Trump’s policy moves. In one recent Politico poll, 62% of Republicans said Trump was right to remove FBI director James Comey, compared with 16% of Democrats.
As it looks now, it seems the louder the Western mainstream media voices are against Trump, the better it is for his numbers. Another side-product of the onslaught is that many in the middle are simply starting to tune out.
On a very small scale I personally saw that phenomenon in action. Yesterday, I got into a taxi. The news was on the radio. The first item was a broadside, more editorial than news, about Trump and Russia. The driver changed to a music station. I asked him:
“Are you sick of Trump?”
He said, “No, it’s just always one-sided. These are complicated things. They aren’t really telling me anything…”
And for the rest of the drive he kept the radio on the music station.
Currently, it seems the constant media attacks are causing Trump’s support to harden, even though there are reasons for his base to be concerned by its own parameters. At the same time, the vitriol seems to be causing many on the fence to put the news on mute. So, if you hear endless anti-Trump pieces coming out of the US, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is losing support. At the moment, it could mean just the opposite.
Cleo Paskal is The Sunday Guardian’s North America Special Correspondent.