At a time when President Trump could be talking about 4.1 percent GDP growth and a 3.9 percent unemployment rate — when he could be rallying voters by talking about how conservative governance is making America better and that’s why they should vote for the GOP in November — he’s instead devoting his energy to increasingly heated denunciations of the media.
Why? Could it be he’s pre-scapegoating the press so that he has a ready-made explanation for why things went wrong for him and his party on Election Day?
His anti-media passion crested on Saturday with a tweet that read: “The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!”
Now, don’t give me that bull about how Trump is only talking about the “fake news,” not the good reporters.
Any argument that he’s making a sophisticated distinction between the two, as Kellyanne Conway attempted to say on TV this past weekend, is just rank sophistry.
The thing is, even if you stipulate that Trump believes every word — which you shouldn’t — what he’s doing is counterproductive.
Trump’s presidency will come under immense stress if the Democrats take the majority in the House of Representatives in November, and he should be working to prevent it from happening.
To do that he needs to give people a reason — a positive reason — to vote. He could. The economy is his best case. And he isn’t making it.
Instead, he’s trying something that has failed many times before. Driving voters to the polls by complaining about the media is an old Republican ploy that just doesn’t work. One key GOP slogan in 1992 was “Annoy the Media, Re-elect Bush,” which neither annoyed the media nor reelected Bush.
It is even less likely to work in a midterm election.
In effect, Trump is asking low-intensity voters to wait on line at a polling place in November to deliver a message of support for him to a third party (the media) by voting for another third party (a Republican House or Senate candidate who isn’t Trump). This is a bank shot in pool even Minnesota Fats couldn’t make.
To be sure, making a positive case isn’t Trump’s strong suit. He likes to polarize, make divisions, go on the attack. But the people most likely to be stirred by his media complaints in this way are people who will already be going to the polls to support him.
All available data suggest Republican-leaning voters are far less likely to vote in November than Democrat-leaning voters. The GOP voters who are indicating they won’t be voting have, like everyone else, heard Trump inveigh against the media for three years now.
If they haven’t been stirred already, Trump declaring the media “the enemy of the people” probably isn’t going to change their minds. In fact, after a moment in the late spring when it looked like the voting gap between the two parties was closing in the GOP’s favor, polling now shows the gap growing again in a leftward direction.
So what Trump’s doing isn’t working. Even he should be able to see that.
So why is he doubling down on a failed PR strategy? One possibility is it’s all he really knows how to do.
Another is that it’s an insurance policy of a kind. Just as he did during the campaign, when he said the election was “rigged” beforehand and wouldn’t say he would abide by the results if Hillary Clinton won, Trump may be establishing a predicate here for a claim that the 2018 results went the other way because of the power of Fake News.
He and the GOP won’t have lost because of public disaffection or anger, but rather because they were propagandized into voting against him.
The fix was in.
The Fake News Made Me Lose.
And now they really have to be stopped.
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