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article imageOp-Ed: Memo: Trump is just the messenger of deeper, darker messages

By John David Powell     Dec 14, 2015 in Politics
Memo
To: Politicians, Pundits, and Fellow Journalists
From: Me
Re: Don’t shoot the messenger
I’ll try to keep this brief, because, after all, that’s what a memo should be. The subject line almost says it all: Don’t shoot the messenger.
To that add: And don’t overlook the message.
All you believe strongly in the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression. But increasingly, it appears many of us interpret that to mean “You can say what you like as long as I like what you say.”
Donald Trump is the latest example.
It is painfully clear that many, if not most, of you do not like what he says. Never have and never will. That’s OK. But, it is not our responsibility to use every opportunity to tell our readers and viewers our opinion. There was a time when journalists reported the news. In fact, I’m sure a J-school prof or a grizzled editor told you at some point early in your career not to become the news.
And yet, you have.
Back in July, the folks at The Huffington Post made news when they relegated Trump’s coverage to the entertainment section, because they decided he should not be taken seriously.
They’ve become the news again by deciding to move him back from Kardashian purgatory to U.S. politics.
The nearly wall-to-wall coverage of everything Donald has taken the air out of the political arena. And there seems to be a snarky Trump angle to every story.
The Chicago Sun-Times made it a point to post a picture of two girls demonstrating with their mother at a Trump rally in Springfield, Ill. One girl proudly held a sign that read: No pigs in wigs. Apparently, they were the only two demonstrators with signs. Or maybe the only ones the Sun-Times could find who combined the words pigs and wig when referring to Trump.
It appears that many members of the media go out of their way to write Trump stories to point out what they believe are outrageous remarks under the guise of starting a conversation that will drive people to the comment sections of their Web pages.
A recent Fox News poll shows the media have given Trump 25 times more attention than all the other GOP candidates combined.
On the Monday before Trump’s inelegant comments about keeping all Muslims out of the country, he received 19,355 unique media mentions. The average over the next two days was 64,638. The rest of the GOP field received a combined average of 2,566.
Trump has managed to marginalize the media, and that’s not a familiar role for us. The result has been exploding heads in newsrooms around the country, which nearly always leads to questionable behavior.
That questionable behavior this time is the selective reporting among mainstream media that is staggering when it comes to Trump. A recent Washington Post headline told us that “less-educated Americans” are behind Trump’s surge.
The WaPo/ABC News poll showed 32 percent of Trump supporters do not have college degrees (because people with a high-school education or less are not allowed to have political opinions?). What they and the other news organizations failed to report, or to remember, was a May 2008 Gallup survey that showed 47 percent of Obama supporters and 46 percent of Clinton supporters did not have college degrees.
And yet . . .
Yes, Mr. Trump is low-hanging fruit. As such, covering his every word is a lot easier than digging into what’s bugging Americans.
I suggested to some colleagues the other day that I would like to see how many Democrats liked Trump’s message. Relying on the old 80-20 rule, I figured about 20 percent had favorable or somewhat favorable opinions of him. Adding that to the 35 percent or so of Republicans would suggest a third of the likely primary voters were OK with Trump. And that would be a pretty big number to ignore.
Well, that very day, Bloomberg polled Democrats and Republicans on Trump’s statement about not letting any more Muslims into the country.
The results: 18 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Republicans liked the idea. That totaled 37 percent of all likely primary voters.
But when they learned this would just be a temporary measure, support dropped one percent among Democrats and Republicans.
This is another example why Americans may feel they are getting a false reality from agenda journalists who force their anti-Trump views down their throats.
Trump lacks political grace; his comments are not politically correct. But, he’s figured out what a sizable chunk of the electorate want to hear.
A recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (and, yes, I can hear your eyes roll) found that health care was the top concern of Democrats (71 percent) and Republicans (61 percent). Terrorism (D-79 percent, R-53 percent), jobs and unemployment (D-66 percent, R-59 percent), and crime (D57 percent, R-53 percent) rounded out the top four. Security in various forms is the common thread through these issues.
Same-sex marriage came in twelfth (D-29 percent, R-28 percent) behind other media hot topics such as climate change and abortion. Not surveyed was the level of distrust of politicians, the political process, and the media.
This is the message from maybe a third of the electorate, if not more. And this is the message Trump delivers at every rally. He tells people he understands their concerns, their anxieties, their fears. And he tells them he’s the one to help them. Sure, he doesn’t lay out a five- or 10-point plan on each issue, or release white papers written by academics or highly paid scribes. They don’t want to hear that. They want to know someone hears them and is willing to listen and to do something about it if given the chance.
Many politicians, pundits, and members of the media say this proves he’s just another demagogue to stand on the political stage.
A demagogue is a person who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument. Pundits and the media like to trot out Sen. Joe McCarthy who gained great power in the Fifties by playing on America’s very real fear of Communism. In doing so, they’ve turned the word into something vile and evil, and attached it to anyone who strays from their personal and political sense of right.
In ancient times, when the word first came into play, a demagogue was a leader who was the champion of the common people, the folks who may not have college educations. Today, that someone might be a community activist or community organizer, someone who tells a group of people they have a problem and that he can fix it or get it fixed if they will only help him help them.
Trump may not make it through the convention. He might not even make it to the White House. Regardless of his political success, the deeper, darker messages of concerns, anxieties, and fears will still be out there in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.
Instead of wasting good oxygen on demonizing Trump or any other presidential candidate, maybe you pundits, politicians, and fellow journalists should spend a little more time listening to those messages and figuring out some very real solutions to some very real issues.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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