Friday, June 30, 2017


Remember when all we could talk about was how old and crotchety and out-of-date Nancy Pelosi is, and how everything bad that happens to the Democratic Party is her fault because she won't step aside as the party's leader in the House, or possibly kill herself? It seems as if that happened months ago, but it was just last week, after Democrats lost a couple of House special elections. Surely you haven't forgotten.

I said at the time that Nancy Pelosi isn't the problem -- yes, Republicans love to portray her in campaign attack ads as an evil progressive witch from the depths of hell, but if she were out of the picture they'd just find someone else to demonize. And there's no reason that new demon has to be a politician. Anyone who seems like a major figure in the all-powerful jackbooted army of liberalism will do.

Since that beat-up-on-Pelosi moment passed, conservatives have spent a lot of time attacking on CNN. And now we have Donald Trump attacking Joe Scarborough and (especially) Mika Brzezinski -- who's also a Democrat from one of the coasts and a woman past prime childbearing age, which means she's likely to be the next Photoshopped Wicked Witch of the West in every right-wing email forward and Facebook post.

Republicans regularly run against the media -- but their president genuinely hates his press antagonists more than any Republican since Nixon. As Jay Rosen notes, President Trump isn't even trying to use the press to sell his agenda to the public -- the White House/press relationship is all about giving committed Trumpers a battle of good vs. evil:
We are used to nominees who, when they win the White House, try to bring the country together by speaking to voters who did not support them in November. This is normal behavior. This is what we expect.

Trump rejects all that. His idea is to deepen the attachment between himself and his core supporters so that nothing can disturb that bond. The substitution of depth (of attachment) for breadth (of appeal) is confusing and disorienting to those who believe in consensus politics.

... Trump is not trying to win the support of anyone who is not naturally allied with him. This is abnormal behavior in an American president.

... Once persuasion drops out of the calculus, journalists seem less threatening as judges and more useful as foils. Peering out over the assembled press corps, the White House briefer has a choice of convenient hate objects. Shall it be Glenn Thrush or Jonathan Karl today… April Ryan or Hallie Jackson? Those called upon may think themselves empowered to put tough questions to the people in charge, but if the people in charge care only about the reactions of core supporters their task is all too simple: put down the liberal media. An easy win. And the one campaign promise the president seems able to keep.
This is going to keep happening, and increasingly the rest of the GOP is likely to join Trump in open, unabashed hostility to the mainstream media -- yes, maybe even Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Trump will have succeeded in turning the media into the real face of the Democratic Party, at least in the eyes of GOP base voters. Republicans will have to run on something other than a scant list of popular accomplishments, and so "Annoy the Media, Vote Republican," which has always been one of the GOP's messages, could become the party's main message.

So keep Nancy Pelosi in place. She may not even be the number one enemy of Republicans by 2018.

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