How Media Helped Donald Trump Hijack the Republican Party

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You cannot escape Donald Trump. His command of national media ensures your day will be bombarded at some point with news about The Donald. He is the sun around which media coverage of US politics has orbited for a year. Today, Trump owns the Republican Party, having masterminded a hostile takeover using compliant and complicit national media who have been fixated on the circus-like atmosphere of Trumpmania and his uncanny ability to attract large audiences.

Of course, Trump’s antics aren’t all an act to entertain audiences. He is definitely motivated to win. I’m not quite sure what he wants to win, given his predilection toward political suicide. But he proclaims his love of winning. And he has done exactly that, including winning the support of more Republican primary voters than anyone in history. Despite his critics, Trump voters include the support of millions of educated white women voters, white evangelicals and well-educated white professionals, much to the chagrin of those who prefer to think his vast appeal is largely among white supremacists, nationalists, fascists, the working poor and purported fringe elements of society.

STRATEGIC TRUMPETING

Trump’s strategy of leveraging what is estimated to be nearly $2B in earned media value disrupted the sacrosanct primary process of stumping state-by-state and buying air time to tarnish political opponents with attack messaging. Instead, Trump sat frequently in his not-quite-so-ivory tower and picked up the phone, engaging compliant national and local journalists at will. He leveraged the power of Twitter to ensure social media would spread whatever he decided would be the topic de jour, and traditional media outlets parroted every word. His media messaging strategy worked exceedingly well.

The field of 16 Trump opponents, along with the GOP’s “establishment” leaders, never knew what hit them. Despite a lack of political experience, Trump intuitively understood something about the nature of the U.S. electorate that none of his opponents and media have quite understood: Americans love winning. Many don’t care as much about the integrity of the path to victory, as long as the end result is victory.

Trump needed only one ally to defeat the entire field of GOP candidates: media. His strategy required a platform high enough to elevate his voice above the noise. And he leveraged his tough-talking New York style of engagement to rattle nerves and pull political opponents into the proverbial gutter to wrestle over name-calling and juvenile battles that were great for ratings.

MAKING AMERICA HATE AGAIN

Media loved The Donald. Whatever he said, regardless of how wacky, silly or worse, they ran around asking people what they thought of what Trump had said. It was as if The Donald was producing his own reality show using real journalists and media organizations. The GOP establishment, which is now considering last-ditch strategies to defeat Trump, never stood a chance against him from the outset.

Trump intuitively understood the seething underbelly of a segment of white America. He knew their fears, their anger, and the greatest desire of their heart … to take back their America and win again. That became his mantra. Trump’s secret formula for evading serious damage from critics was to never back down from his bombastic unrefined raw statements that reflected the deepest desires of his constituents. He engendered trust among voters who didn’t know or care how he would “make America great again” for privileged whites, or how he would return the nation to a 20th century era wherein whites exerted great control over Mexicans, Muslims and Black Americans.

Trumpeters faithfully believe that if they support Trump, he can be trusted to do what he says because when confronted he doesn’t back away from his many outlandish assertions (except when he dilutes them for the sake of party unity). What Trumpeters want now, more than ever, is a stalwart leader willing to go to battle against the forces that have taken over the America they once knew, and also defeat the milquetoast GOP leaders who are perceived as having lost the cultural war to progressive factions. Trump knew his audience from day one when he stepped into the 2016 presidential race. And media happily played Trump propaganda on perpetual repeat 24 hours a day.

TRUMP’S HOSTILE TAKEOVER

Today, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or says to detract from the regal glory surrounding Donald Trump. He is the undisputed King of the GOP. Republican Party leaders and highly influential supporters, including many moral-minded right-wing evangelicals and university presidents, are bending over backward and demonstrating extraordinary feats of mental gymnastics and character capitulation to support Trump. It’s hard to believe only two months ago New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became the first hostage taken by Trump. Weeks later, Trump has captured nearly all of the GOP.

Fox News screen capture. See video.

Fox News celebrity anchor Megyn Kelly agrees:

“Trump hijacked the Republican Party!” Kelly told Howard Kurtz on Media Buzz last weekend.
“And it’s been a spectacular spectacle to behold! I mean, it’s really just been amazing. I think what happened this past year is the Republican Party elders did their level-best to bring the voters to heel. And what happened instead was the Republican Party voters brought the party to heel, and said, ‘No more. This time we tell you what we want.’ And they got their way. They’ve been heard now. I think that’s actually good for the Republican Party. Whether Trump can get that ball across the finish line, time will tell.”

Imagine that. In the aftermath of an embarrassing months-long public battle with the Republican Party frontrunner, Megyn Kelly is now suggesting Trump’s racist tyranny and misogyny is potentially good for the GOP. Can Trump say whatever he wants about most anyone he pleases with impunity? He seemingly can do no wrong in the eyes of many GOP faithful who will find a way to diminish, discount, excuse or completely ignore even the most blatant assault from the billionaire. These Trumpeteers apparently despise President Obama and Secretary Clinton with such a vitriolic vengeance that Trump publicly proclaimed he could shoot someone dead in the middle of Times Square in New York City and not lose a single vote. His polls numbers soared.

KING TRUMP’S KINGDOM

As the absolute monarch crowned by the Republican faithful with a voting margin never before seen in GOP political history, Trump has earned the new nickname Teflon Don, as he continues to demonstrate to his billionaire opponents — whose political dynasty he has obliterated — that nothing sticks to him.

This past weekend, The New York Times published a front page profile on the irreverent life and times of the womanizing Donald Trump. Yawn.

The traditional Twitter backlash from Trump — who called it a hit piece — and the collective response from critics and Trumpeteers, confirms that this supposed expose on how Trump treats women privately is much ado about nothing … at least nothing new. Trump was right: Americans love winning. And he’s winning so much that he’s run out of opponents. And now he’s faced with media holding up a mirror of his character and hoping that Americans will see the truth. They have. And they see themselves in that mirror.

Think about it. Trump was considered a clown candidate when he entered the race a year ago. And certainly his opening act strongly suggested he had every intention of entertaining audiences with his Celebrity Apprentice persona in attack mode from the outset. Starting with a lambasting of the condition of the nation in general, and the leadership of both parties, Trump took on everything and everyone in his path, from the revered Fox News and GOP media darling, Megyn Kelly, to heroic military vets like Sen. John McCain, to even the Pope! Trump’s rapid-fire machine-gun mouth has targeted so many groups of people that he has been labeled racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and even stupid (that last one comes courtesy of British Prime Minister David Cameron). In fairness to Trump, he says he’s not stupid.

This latest Trump problem with the leader of one of America’s closest allies comes just a few days after trying to close the gap between himself and the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. But try as he might to be “presidential” and a “unifier,” Trump can’t help himself. He is who he is. No one can escape The Donald’s arsenal of verbal assaults if they dared to cross him, even a little. And that’s exactly the kind of leader most of the Republican Party electorate is looking for: someone who isn’t afraid to cross any line, or step on any carcass, in the path to victory.

GOP-CREATED or MEDIA-CREATED MONSTER?

Trump is the apparent personification of a desperate segment of the white GOP electorate fearful of the demographic shifts in America, angry over the progressive change they’ve witnessed in the election and re-election of the nation’s first black president, and emotionally unglued over the prospect of diminishing control over every institution of power and influence they’ve sustained as their privileged domain for generations.

But Trump wouldn’t be Super Trump without his trusted sidekicks, Mainstream Media. The so-called mainstream media have an out-sized influence over the general populace. They know it. Trump knows it. And they also know something else about influencing the American people: women who are considered beautiful by European standards can sell anything to an American audience. They are frequently used to sell everything from liquor to cars to homes. And yes, even news. Ironically, today’s news media often resembles a staged set that The Donald himself might have produced.

Fox News Outnumbered

Let’s face it. Donald Trump represents the values of millions of Americans: Winning is everything and covers over a multitude of sins. Repeat that message over and over across national media on a daily basis and soon it will be received as truth. Just ask Donald Trump, or any former Trump critic who now serves at his pleasure.

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