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Why America Is Addicted to Donald Trump

How can the media cover Donald Trump in 2024 and avoid the mistakes of the past? And why are so many Republicans talking about how they hope Trump dies before 2024? 

Yes, Donald Trump is running for president again, doing many of the normal things presidential candidates do, like visiting New Hampshire and South Carolina, collecting endorsements, and taking shots at potential opponents. 

The Media and Donald Trump: What Happens Now? 

A new opinion piece looks at how the media might react to Trump’s third presidential run. 

Writing in Vanity Fair, Molly Jong-Fast asks “Will the press play along?” with Trump’s presidential run. 

When Donald Trump first ran, how he played the media was a key part of his rise.

Sure, he and the press were often at odds, but at the same time, the TV networks gave him nearly endless free media and tended to base all of their coverage of the race around him. 

“Luckily for Trump, the mainstream media has a bias toward normalcy,” she writes. “So, the guy who is responsible for eroding democracy, being found to be the single largest driver of COVID disinformation, and ultimately ending his reign with a failed coup attempt, gets treated the same as Jeb Bush? Please clap.”

She then asked what exactly the media could do. 

“Traditional political reporters, perhaps fearing being labeled as ‘partisan,’ appear unable or unwilling to call out how abnormal it is for an ex-president, and his party, to sweep their assault on democracy under the rug,” Jong-Fast writes. 

“And Trump is more than able to exploit this dynamic. His supporters accuse the mainstream media of being too liberal, which causes reporters to try and overcompensate. By never letting anything go and targeting journalists and institutions (like the ‘failing New York Times’), Trump is able to create a more favorable environment for his own malfeasance. Mainstream political journalists find themselves on the defensive, worried about how their own coverage will be perceived and concerned that their institutions won’t protect them. ‘Working the refs,’ as they say, tends to work.”

The Media Is Addicted to Donald Trump for a Reason 

This raises interesting questions. Some opponents of Trump believe that the way the media can break out of this trap is by “ignoring” him, but that’s not how the media works. When a presidential candidate says or does something shocking, that is, by its very definition, newsworthy. 

“When he targeted a marginalized group, he was given column inches and segments on cable news,” Jong-Fast writes. “Trump’s appalling behavior was rewarded with righteous indignation from pundits. Trump then used that righteous indignation to excite his base, to harness white rural resentment, to sell the idea that he wasn’t a typical politician—that he, a rich and famous and self-absorbed reality TV host, was running on behalf of forgotten Americans. Let’s hope voters see through that tired act because American democracy is riding on it.”

Trump Isn’t Going Away 

Meanwhile, The Atlantic wrote a more morbid take on how Republicans are approaching Trump’s run for president. They’re hoping he removes himself from politics somehow, either through indictment, retirement or possibly even death. 

“Ask them how they plan to do that, and the discussion quickly veers into the realm of hopeful hypotheticals,” journalist McKay Coppins wrote of top Republicans hoping to be rid of the former president. “Maybe he’ll get indicted and his legal problems will overwhelm him. Maybe he’ll flame out early in the primaries, or just get bored with politics and wander away. Maybe the situation will resolve itself naturally: He’s old, after all—how many years can he have left?”

Coppins, the reporter, had written the famous “36 Hours On The Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump” for Buzzfeed back in 2014 and has written acclaimed coverage of politics in the years since. 

“There is a desire for deus ex machina,” one Republican consultant told The Atlantic, of the desire for Trump to disappear. “It’s like 2016 all over again, only more fatalistic.”

“You have a lot of folks who are just wishing for [Trump’s] mortal demise,” former Rep. Peter Meijer, a Trump opponent, told the magazine. “I want to be clear: I’m not in that camp. But I’ve heard from a lot of people who will go onstage and put on the red hat, and then give me a call the next day and say, ‘I can’t wait until this guy dies.’ And it’s like, Good Lord.” 

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Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.



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