Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Part of the July 4th weekend — perhaps not all that surprisingly — was taken up by one of Pres. Trump’s self-generated dramas.  In this case, Trump tweeted a video on Sunday in which he was portrayed clothes-lining a man whose head was replaced by the CNN logo.  The media, per usual, overreacted to this childish and unpresidential stunt, treating it as a threat to the republic.

In fact, CNN went so far as to investigate the identity of the Redditor who posted the original video and arguably threatened to reveal that identity in the event of further misbehavior.  Much of the Right will focus on CNN’s behavior instead of an overarching dynamic that does not benefit the Right in the medium- to long-term.

As NR’s Kevin Williamson noted just two days earlier regarding a similar Trump media-baiting tweet, “it is his unrequited love of the media that is undoing him… Trump, for all his professed contempt for the media, believes that success is not success until it is certified by Time magazine or (avert thine eyes, Hannity!) the New York Times.”  I won’t rehash that case here, but it is necessary to understand Williamson’s point to learn a lesson from these episodes.

Trump’s past week of Twitter attacks on the media seems to have fueled the idea that these kerfuffles do not advance his agenda or the GOP agenda.  Yet there remains a bloc of Trump supporters that remain stuck on the “But he FIGHTS!” defense.  They defend Trump as a counter-puncher, even when it seemingly does not benefit them.

The key word here is “seemingly,” as I try to avoid the the sort of condescending false-consciousness explanations for voter behavior of which the Left is so fond.

The question, therefore, is what interest is served by defending Trump’s often personal feuds with the media?  (Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and CNN’s Jeff Zucker all had pre-existing, friendly relationships with Trump.)  The answer, I would hypothesize, might be found in identity politics.

Although identity politics has grown far worse in recent years, it has been for decades the basic subtext of what the Left (including the establishment media) has said about the Right.  To disagree with the Left about most any policy matter is not simply to be wrong, but a bad person: racist, sexist, phobe, etc.

Some believe that the Right’s rejection of this dynamic is How You Got Trump.  Inasmuch as Obama-Trump voters were key to his victory, I tend to think this was not the case.  I do think that this dynamic was how Trump survived episodes during the campaign that were previously thought to be fatal for any other politician.

And it is this dynamic that may explain why a bloc of Trump supporters do not see his media feuds as personal, per se.  Rather, some see Trump as representing them, as venting decades of pent-up anger with institutions that have viewed them with contempt.

This reaction may in some sense seem understandable.  Ironically, it is also the opposite of how Trump and his supporters should be reacting.

During the campaign, Trump very clearly laid out a narrative of being the candidate who would take on the establishment media (and by proxy, its treatment of the Right).  He won.  Yet neither he nor his supporters pushed hard to shift the narrative to: “The media lost.  Half the country rejected their smears.  They whine, they hype the liberal agenda, but they no longer have control of the national narrative.”

Instead, Trump has remained a slave to the media’s view of him — as do his supporters and even other conservatives obsessed with the establishment media.  It is probably too late to correct that mistake now.  By looking for love in all the wrong places, they empower their opponents.

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