Donald Trump has hit his highest level of support yet in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll of registered Republicans out Tuesday: 38 percent....The Post's Dan Balz and Scott Clement write:
Trump's support is two-and-a-half times that of his nearest rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (15 percent)....
The results are the latest sign that Trump’s outspoken comments on immigration and terrorism continue to find an audience among rank-and-file Republicans in spite of sharp condemnation from Democrats, GOP leaders, some of Trump’s rivals and a chorus of world leaders."In spite of"? Try "because of." Maybe the favorable response of GOP voters to Trump's proposals isn't exclusively because the rest of us are so shocked by them, but our outrage is certainly a huge contributing factor.
I once thought that the mainstream press was going to warm to Trump and start portraying him as just a cuddly eccentric. It actually seemed to be happening for a while in the fall -- back in October, I wrote an angry post about favorable media coverage of Trump's daughter Ivanka and other women who work with him. It was clear that the Trump campaign was spoon-feeding these stories to the press in an effort to soften Trump's image.
But it didn't help Trump. October was when Ben Carson started seriously challenging him for the lead in Republican polls.
Maybe if everyone had decided to start treating Trump as a harmless flake he'd be struggling in the polls now.
Trump clearly recognized, or at least intuited, that he needed to go back to being an angry man whose words shock people if he wanted to stay at the top. So he's saying outrageous things again, and nearly all of us rise to the bait. Maybe his rivals in the race for the Republican nomination don't respond with any passion or force, but it's obvious that he's driving them nuts.
Who's the only rival who seems to be thriving? In Iowa at least, it's Ted Cruz -- the one guy who until recently wouldn't criticize Trump, and who even when criticizing him refers to him as "my friend." I had doubts about Cruz's be-nice-to-Trump strategy, but it's certainly working better than anyone else's strategy.
As for the rest of us? Maybe the way to deprive Trump of oxygen is not to stop covering him, but to cover even his outrageous statements the way the boring pronouncements and policy documents of the other candidates are covered. Trump declares that he wants to restrict Muslim entry into the U.S.? Put it on the equivalent of page A18, right next to the dull article about Jeb Bush's latest position paper on global trade. Write every story with no emotion. Ignore the outraged demonstrators. Ignore the chilling policy implications and the intimations of fascism.
But wouldn't that be burying important information on serious matters? Yes, but the press does that all the time. Doesn't every Republican candidate have a tax plan that's outrageously skewed in favor of the wealthy and that's guaranteed to add trillions to the national debt? Where do those get covered? Bury Trump's outrageous statements where you bury those stories. Those tax plans would hurt a lot of ordinary people too, but the press coverage of them is minimal and bloodless. Treat Trump's outrages the same way. When he tosses out bait, record the facts and move on. Keep it all as boring as the rest of your issue coverage.
Maybe that'll work.
Am I seriously proposing this? No, not really. But it might be the only approach that could bring Trump down.