As we careen toward Election Day in a world that might rival Alice in Wonderland for its oddities, I have been thinking about the effect of the criticisms of Trump in the press and on social media. Actually, I have been thinking about it since before the last election, but my thoughts are gaining traction now.
Prior to the last election, the press latched onto everything (so it seems) Trump said and did. It didn’t matter that 14 Republicans were in the running at one point; the press couldn’t get enough of Trump. He was a novelty, a media circus. What seemed like a side show to begin with became the spectacle in the center ring..
I assume that Trump was good for the news and media businesses. They like train wrecks and that sort of thing. It sells.
I was thinking as I watched the Republican primary lurch and stutter that the media gave Trump all the fuel he needed to become the front runner. He couldn’t have possibly asked for or gotten more press than he did. I assume that someone like Trump likes any press is good press. Without shame, the more the merrier.
I was aggravated at all the press coverage during the primary because, it seemed to me, the media was ignoring more solid candidates and handing Trump the Republican nomination. As the Primary was settled and the presidential campaigning shifted into high gear, the media attention turned increasingly more judgmental, but it didn’t matter. It was all fuel to the fire.
It was a kind of symbiotic relationship. Trump was propelled along by the inertia of press coverage, and, let’s face it, Donald Trump sold the news. They played virus and host to each other in the truest of symbiotic dances.
I will never forget the looks of chagrin on the faces of the media pundits as the numbers came in on election night. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but I could. They created this Frankenstein and shouldn’t have been wondering at the power they gave him.
By the time Trump became the Republican frontrunner, the press was decidedly weighing against him. He wasn’t just an amusement anymore. Many of the stories carried their own moral weight, but those in the press who were aghast didn’t trust the public, the common people, to judge rightly what they were seeing. Facts, themselves, are apparently no longer sufficient to carry their own weight.
People are smarter than the average bear (to mix another metaphor). They know condescension when they see it. Americans, in particular, don’t like to be told what to think or do. We love our freedoms. We boast about them. Americans are nothing, if not free, right?
Another element at play was the unending, unceasing, constant and continual criticism of Trump by all the Clinton supporters and Trump haters (who were not necessarily the same people). Trump couldn’t do anything or tweet anything or say anything that wasn’t immediately denounced, condemned and decried. Not that they had any lack of ammunition.
The Trump critics have proven to have the stamina of a racehorse and marathon runner combined. They don’t stop. They never stopped.
For over four years now, going back well before the last election, and continuing to the present time, the Never Trumpers have carried their torches boldly and loudly and often, posting unceasingly to all the world everything Trump says and does wrong on a daily basis. Not that they have lacked for material.
As the next Election Day approaches, it seems to me that Never Trump Fatigue set in somewhere along the line. I have been seeing it for awhile. People are tired of hearing it. People seem to have begun wondering, perhaps, whether the Trump critics doth protest too much.
I am not talking about the Trump supporters, who have been emboldened as the constant drone of criticism has continued to whine and increase. People on both sides of the divide have become more vocal as people in the middle, looking for some common ground or reprieve or sense of “can’t we all get along”, seem to be left, abandoned in the no man’s land in between.
I’m afraid the constant barrage of attacks on Trump began to generate a backlash somewhere in the process as critics gave up any semblance of polite disdain. Tolerance has its ordained limits. All gloves came off long ago, and it’s been a mudslinging free-for-all ever since.
As a wise uncle once admonished (or maybe it was an old political prophet): don’t fight with pigs. They enjoy it and you just get dirty in the process.
It seems to me that the increased intensity, flagrancy and constancy of bulwark of weaponry aimed at Trump became counterproductive at some point. Nothing trump said or did was so low that it couldn’t be fired right back at him.
What I see in the uneasy silence of the middle ground has been a slow distancing of people in the middle from the attackers. Like a person who starts a fight, gets punched in the nose, and goes crying to the teacher, some of these people began to sympathize with The Donald. Nobody likes a tattle-tale on the playground.
On the football field, the penalty often goes to the player who strikes back. Not the person who delivered the low blow. People are funny that way.
It doesn’t matter anymore, for some people, and it hasn’t mattered in awhile, what Donald Trump has done or said. The critics have long ago gotten too personal. They attack everything about him. They openly despise him and mock him. They burn his image in verbal effigy, and many people are not ok with that response – whatever Trump may have said or done.
As the constant barrage of flaming arrows hail down on Trump, the fires burn indiscriminately, damaging people not planted solidly on the attacking camp – the people who fear the bureaucracy, inefficiency, inflexibility and caprice of big government; people who innately dislike elites who “know better”; people who cannot stomach laws that allow the killing of children up to the second before they are “born” (and just after); people who believe in freedom; people who love the United States of America and what it stands for (despite its warts); people feel unrepresented in the political deserts of rural America; people who don’t like the Democratic political machine; people of good will who want to find middle ground and rediscover the art of compromise, among others.
Those flaming arrows aimed at Trump only seem to fuel his fire, while they damage the countryside and turn back all those who are not willing to cross the moat and close the drawbridge behind them in the castle of the Democratic party. What are they to do? No middle ground is offered.
There is only left, and right, and a no-man’s-land in between – that “contested territory [and] dumping ground for refuse between two fiefdoms“. The land between the enemy trench systems where people stumble, eyes stinging and ears ringing in the thickening haze and hail of war, have had enough of the enemy on both sides.
The middle has been abdicated and abandoned. The middle has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Can anyone, but God Himself, save us from ourselves?