Why don’t the news media simply ignore Donald Trump? Or, at least, cover him far less? He thrives on the attention. Withhold your coverage and starve him of oxygen.
Liberals, frustrated by Trump and his dominance of the news cycle, often make this case to me.
Why don’t we in the media focus on other things, important policy issues, rather than on the last intemperate thing that Trump said or did?
I understand the frustration, but I also know that what people are asking is, on the one hand, impossible and, on the other, particularly in print, already happening, but not necessarily being elevated.
There is no way for the media — define media however you will — to simply ignore a sitting president of the United States. That would not only be a dereliction of duty, it would also be folly.
As for the policy machinations, those stories are often covered, but are rarely splashy news because by their very nature, they are technical and bureaucratic.
There is always room for the news media to do better, to tweak and adjust allocation of resources, areas of coverage and its promotion of stories.
But there is another side to the news equation: not those who deliver the news, but those who consume it. The other side is you and I as readers, watchers, clickers, listeners, posters, likers and retweeters. On the consumption side, we have also become governed by the gravity of the moment, and are so outraged by the dishonesty, villainy, corruption and divisiveness that we appear to be attracted, to a large degree, to that which underscores and feeds our fury.
But I also think that steadfast determination to resist and rebuke the improprieties of this administration doesn’t mean that our lives have to be dominated by stress and negativity. That to me seems self-immolating.
A poll released last week by the Pew Research Center found that:
As was the case in late 2016, Trump is a more frequent topic of conversation for liberal Democrats than for other Democrats or among Republicans. Currently, 42 percent of liberal Democrats say Trump’s presidency comes up in conversations very often; that is double the share of conservatives and moderates who say this.
The same survey found that 63 percent of liberals say talking politics with people they disagree with is “stressful and frustrating,” compared with 51 percent of conservatives and moderates.
Trump is dominating liberal discussion in a way that I think could be damaging to us in the long term. When you obsess about a problem, you have less energy and passion to pursue solutions. When you fret over every outrage, you elevate those outrages. Stories trend because consumers engage with them, clicking and sharing them, not because the media dictate that they trend.
I think it would be a solid and beneficial step for us all to simply come to the realizations: Trump is going to Trump. He’s going to lie. He’s going to wink at the racists and Nazis. He’s going to demean women. He’s going to embarrass this country. It’s all going to happen.
Nevertheless, we can take this stand unequivocally: It is all unacceptable and we stand in opposition to it. It is not normal and must never be met as such.
But we must also focus on the future.
There is an exciting new class of left-leaning legislators joining Congress who bring with them fresh blood and fresh ideas. Democrats will control the House, its committees and its legislative calendar.
Democrats performed even better in the midterms than many thought on election night. As the New York Times reported this week: The underlying shifts in the electorate suggest President Trump may have to walk a precarious path to re-election in 2020, as several Midwestern states he won in 2016 threaten to slip away, and once-red states in the Southwest turn a purpler hue. The president’s strategy of sowing racial division and stoking alarm about immigration failed to lift his party, and Democratic messaging about health care undercut the benefit Republicans hoped to gain from a strong economy.
The 2020 presidential election promises a veritable smorgasbord of options on the left.
Lastly, Robert Mueller is still on the job.
Trumpism is a disease, and cursing it won’t cure it. It has to be overwhelmed, and that can be done as the left began to do it this month: With diligence, policy-focused messaging, increased engagement and participation, and demand for decency. There is no easy way out of the Trump era, but there is a way forward, and it is not through hopeless pessimism.
Remember that you can be thoroughly anti-Trump without being completely Trump-obsessed. Trump not only wants to control media coverage, he wants to control your attention. If he can’t have your adoration, he’ll settle for your anger. Either way, you are emotionally engaged with the egotist. Trump wants to grab you by the passion. Don’t let him.