Paul Waldman conflates two entirely different things about media coverage: media coverage of and about Trump himself and media coverage of Republican congressional policy proposals. He’s right about one of those things, but clearly wrong about the other.
[The left’s] belief that Trump’s success is primarily a media failure has a parallel in the way conservatives have always explained their own defeats. We would have won, they insist, if only the media hadn’t been against us! If only they had told the voters just how much Barack Obama hates America, or if only they had explained what a reprobate Bill Clinton is, then of course we would have won, because the truth is so irrefutable.
It’s now becoming clear that this kind of thinking is rampant on the left as well. “I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for,” Bernie Sanders said in March, “It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.” That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how Americans think and what they believe. There are plenty of critiques you can make of how Republican policies are described in the press while still granting that they have substantial support. Conservatism isn’t going to disappear once Bernie Sanders has the opportunity for a full airing of his views, any more than Donald Trump’s support will fall to nothing once he’s “exposed.”
Here’s the truth: journalists are exposing Trump every day. How do you know about what a scam Trump University was? Because journalists told you. How do you know what a liar Trump is? Because journalists explained the difference between the truth and what he says (and yes, they need to do it more often and more quickly). Want to know more about the extent of his business shenanigans? Here’s an article on how he stiffs his contractors and workers, and here’s an article on how he bled investors for millions while mismanaging his Atlantic City casinos into bankruptcy. It’s solid investigative journalism, and it’s vitally important to the public understanding who he really is.
— The media isn’t going to save the country from Donald Trump. Here’s why., Paul Waldman, Washington Post, today
I like Paul Waldman. And I certainly agree with his basic critique of the premise that the media hasn’t exposed Trump himself—his utterances—sufficiently. That’s pretty much all cable news and many other media outlets have covered, apparently. And he’s clearly right that journalists have exposed Trump’s business frauds and business-failures-cum-profit-makers-for-only-him.
But what does that have to do with whether or not the media has covered Republican congressional policy sufficiently—which is what Sanders was talking about?
It’s not simply a matter of the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal reporting on the Ryan budget or the legislation to kill Dodd-Frank or the separate legislation passed by both houses of Congress to repeal the Obama administration’s rule under Dodd-Frank making financial advisers legal fiduciaries. In a story last week titled “Obama vetoes legislation to thwart financial adviser rule,” the Associated Press summed it all up:
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has vetoed legislation designed to nullify Obama administration rules that will require financial professionals to put their client’s best interest first when giving advice on retirement investments.
Obama says that some firms have steered clients into products that had higher fees and lower returns, which he says costs families about $17 billion a year.
Republicans say the regulations will make it more expensive for smaller businesses to provide retirement savings plans to their employees, resulting in less advice and fewer choices for many consumers.
Under the “fiduciary rule,” advisers who charge commissions will be required to sign a promise to act in the client’s best interest and disclose information about fees and conflicts of interest.
The rule will take effect next April.
Paul Krugman writes today that Paul Ryan includes repealing that rule in his “anti-poverty plan.” Lewis Carroll ghostwrites for Ryan, something I already knew but most people don’t.
I regularly read the New York Times, the Washington Post, and blogs that cover this type of thing, so I knew of the legislation to repeal the fiduciary rule. But even I didn’t know that the legislation had actually been passed and had reached Obama’s desk.
What percentage of voters knows any of this, do you think? Was it covered on the cable stations? Was it on the front pages of any newspapers? What about the nightly network news shows that are watched mainly these days by seniors?
For that matter, did our presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president mention it? Not that I know of. Then again, she became the presumptive nominee early last week and that made her the first WOMAN presumptive major party nominee. And Donald Trump doubled down on his the-judge-is-biased-because-he’s-of-Mexican-descent tack. And had Clinton not mentioned these things again and again last week, the public never would have known.
Unless, of course, the news organizations hadn’t saturated print, internet, network and cable media with them. Which they did.
Mr. Waldman, most voters don’t know what’s in the Ryan budget. And most don’t know that financial advisers aren’t legal fiduciaries and that their business model is conflict of interest. Much less do they know that the Obama administration has used its authority under a financial-industry regulation statute passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Obama to end that, beginning shortly after either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is sworn in as president.
And it’s a safe bet that few people know that the repeal of that new rule is part of Paul Ryan’s poverty, I mean anti-poverty, legislative proposal. And they don’t know what’s in Ryan’s budget plan, and they don’t know that Donald Trump’s budget plan posted since last October on his campaign’s website is the Ryan plan on steroids, and they don’t know that the Heritage Foundation folks wrote it, and they don’t know what the Heritage Foundation is, and they don’t know that Ryan says Trump has assured him that Trump will be Ryan’s puppet. And the Heritage Foundation’s. Which is redundant, I know. But they don’t.
Waldman is right that conservatism isn’t going to disappear once Bernie Sanders has the opportunity for a full airing of his views, any more than Donald Trump’s support will fall to nothing once he’s “exposed.” But Sanders is right that conservatism will disappear if the public finally learns what it actually is. Instead, mainly they’re learning how many times Trump’s latest racial or ethnic or religious or gender slur can be mentioned in a given time period. And they’ve probably stopped counting.