The intensity of the reactions to the 2016 election of Donald Trump—reactions that ran the gamut from disbelief to near-psychotic breakdown—and the cultural and political schisms that these laid bare have been explained and re-explained almost to the point of absurdity.
The short answer of many in the New York-California-DC media and cultural elite seems, no matter how kindly or judiciously stated, to boil down to this: A broad swathe of uneducated and bigoted rubes who have no idea what is good for them voted with fear rather than logic and have brought America to the brink of destruction by putting an idiot much like themselves into the White House. This belief certainly explains the exceedingly undemocratic attitudes of many who, having failed to either first win the election or later convince those in the Electoral College to throw their support to Hillary Clinton, are now cheerleading a stampede toward Presidential impeachment based on anonymously-sourced or self-serving statements from those now cast from the corridors of power by the voters.
There is, of course, a chance that President Trump and his associates engaged in some sort of unbelievable wrongdoing with the Russians to help him win the election that sounds like something right out of a spy novel. However, to date, there is absolutely no evidence to support such contentions, although to some in “The Resistance” that is simply further evidence that it all must be true—this is, after all, a “secret conspiracy” to subvert America, right? Unfortunately, we yet to have someone speak on the record and under oath. Nonetheless, our vaunted news media has pretty much decided snark and innuendo equals actual information, which thrills the “Not my President” crowd but leaves everyone else wondering why rumor-mongering is being celebrated as journalistic bravery.
There is, however, something well worth examining here: the incredible contempt with which a duly-elected President—and the results of that election—are being treated. Given that Trump won the Electoral College but not the popular vote, I can understand some of the bitterness of the Democrats. Moreover, the absolute and unshakable confidence of pollsters and the media in a Clinton victory leading up to Election Day left a great many with a bad case of whiplash—and provided fertile ground for conspiracy theorists who somehow needed to explain an outcome that was so wholly contrary to their expectations. Sudden and shocking events always prompt a search for villains, and the Russians have been our go-to bad guys for nearly a century—and a handy excuse for virtually any misfortune.
However, I am starting to wonder whether we are seeing something entirely different here: a snobbish and scary attack on a President and his supporters by media and political elites who find Trump and those who voted for him simply unacceptable.
The British have a lovely expression that describes this haughty attitude perfectly: An individual is simply “N.Q.O.C.” (Not Quite Our Class). Although we love to believe that America is a perfectly egalitarian nation, the echoes of this kind of elite dismissiveness could be heard back in 2008 when Barack Obama, running for his first term, derided “bitter Americans” who “cling to guns or religion”. Hillary Clinton’s later comments about Trump supporters—as “a basket of Deplorables”—sprang from the same incredulity regarding the existence of Americans who drive pick-up trucks, serve in the military, and enjoy a Big Mac and fries at lunch.
The Democrats I grew up with were back-slapping, beer-drinking, lunch bucket guys who were happy to throw an extra steak on the grill if you showed up unexpectedly at their Saturday barbecue. Today the Democrats seem to live exclusively in college towns or expensive urban zip codes with high fences or security cameras, and now it’s all Pinot Grigio, artisanal cheeses, locally-sourced vegetable kebabs, and chit-chat about their children’s summer “enrichment” activities—screw riding bikes or building a tree house.
Now think of the average writer or editor for The New York Times or Washington Post—the nexus of the “Never Trump” universe—and try to imagine them working at a Walmart, attending a Bible study group, or spending a summer digging a new septic tank. This is, of course, an exaggeration meant to make a point, but although they might write wonderfully sympathetic articles describing the economic and personal struggles of the average American, these writers and editors are living in a world far removed from the everyday concerns of those whom they derogatorily describe as “Joe Six Pack” voters—and their career trajectories will be much enhanced if they can help to put their pals back in power so that they can once again hobnob with people just like themselves.
Why do I say this?
When the history of the Trump presidency is written, I wonder whether a single decision will be recognized as the true inflection point: President Trump’s decision to not attend this year’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner—and to forbid his staff from doing so as well. This was, in the rarified world of political journalists, pretty much like being a sixteen year old girl ditched by your Prom date. Although the coverage of Trump and his policies was already resoundingly negative, it seems to me that an angry and derisive tone much like that of an enraged ex-spouse infected a great deal of the media coverage that followed. What was political suddenly became very, very personal—and any pretense of journalistic objectivity seemed to fly right out the window. The mission now seems set in stone: Drive Trump and his bitter and deplorable voters from power so that order can be restored to the universe.
So here we are now.
It seems certain that every happenstance of White House personnel and policies during the remainder of the Trump presidency will now be spun into dark plots and criminal schemes by the mainstream media. Given that prosecutors exist to prosecute, we can likewise be reasonably assured that someone will eventually be charged with something, which will be fair and appropriate if sworn evidence is provided that proves wrongdoing.
However, this seems to me tangential to what is the actual crux of the matter: We are seeing something terrifyingly akin to a media coup in progress right now, and we should be very concerned about the glee with which many now want to reverse the results of a free and fair election. The decisions of a democracy are made at the ballot box—not in the newsroom—and voters will have ample opportunity to reward or punish President Trump in the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.
Unless clear evidence of criminality and collusion based on admissible evidence is found, the media should back off on the overheated and condescending coverage, stick to supportable facts, and keep in mind that elections—not sneering insinuations—are the ultimate arbiters of how our nation conducts its affairs. Failing this, I fear we are in for a rough ride that will do little other than disenfranchise many of our nation’s voters—all because a relative handful of journalists believe those voters are bigots and idiots whose voices should be silenced.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Aretha Franklin said it all in one word)