I don’t normally publish four times a week, but these are extraordinary times.
They smashed windows, hung nooses, brawled with cops, and desecrated the U.S. Capitol.
The sickening images from Wednesday that ricocheted around the world announcing a pathetic new chapter in American history, featured thousands of Trump voters. The rioters were acting out on delusional claims of the November election having been stolen from Trump, even though his lawyers failed more than 60 times to prove that in court.
The lawless, violent Trump mob rampaged inside the Capitol, drew gunfire from police, and destroyed offices of Democratic members. News consumers might have been surprised by what unfolded on Wednesday, because while the political press has feasted on Trump Voter stories over the last five years, constantly meeting up with white, Midwestern loyalists in diners, virtually none of that gentle coverage ever hinted at a radical, racist, conspiratorial dark side.
Trump stands at the fulcrum of a hate movement as he constantly spouts divisive rhetoric, likening Blacks to rodents and immigrants to violent trespassers. Doesn't it stand to reason that lots of his supporters are hateful, too?
Routinely depicted as hard working folks in search of a political path, and thankful for Trump leadership, the Trump Voter coverage for years has failed to pull back the curtain and reveal even small glimpses of Wednesday's organized mob. Committed to the idea of documenting every thought and nuance inside Trump Nation (and fending off claims of "liberal media bias" in the process), the press has presented a gauzy fantasy about what was really going on in right-wing America.
We've seen a conveyor belt of stories about blue-collar voters in virtually all-white counties inside red states announcing that they really, really like Trump. The media message has remained unwavering: White working-class voters are the voters who matter most. Even a Trump supporter who had nice things to say about Nazis received a gentle New York Times profile.
Committed to the idea that Trump's white voters were the most important, and most authentic, voices in American politics, the media spent four years glorifying them, marveling at their loyalty in the face of Trump's erratic behavior. The Times in particular spent untold time and resources typing up hosannas from Trump fans and presenting their praise and vociferous defense of the president as news. (Actual Times headlines: "These Guys Really Like Trump"; Trump’s Fights Are Their Fights. They Have His Back Unapologetically")
In the process, the Times' Trump Voter coverage often normalized the lies, presenting them unchecked:
• Trump voter in Ohio: “I’m tired of [immigrants] being here illegally and cutthroating the rest of us.”
That claim was false.
• Trump voter in Iowa: “My view is [Obama] purposely got into the presidency so he could ruin America.”
That claim was absurd.
• Trump voter in Georgia: “But there are allegations about killing people who get in [Hillary Clinton’s] way — Vince Foster, people like that.”
That claim was just completely bonkers.
Since the election, as Trump supporters rallied around the deranged idea that the election had been stolen, some journalists have expressed sympathy for them. In an interview with Vanity Fair, CNN's Jake Tapper said, “I feel sympathy for them, is the truth,” he said. “I feel bad. They’re outraged because they’re being told things that aren’t true. And that’s a disgrace for the people who are telling the lies, not the people who are hearing them and getting outraged.”
Following the mob attack yesterday, Yahoo News' Hunter Walker tweeted, "On some level, I empathize with the people who stormed the Capitol. They were lied to. They were falsely told their votes were stolen. They were made to believe the democratic process was undemocratic. Those who did this to them are just as accountable as they are."
That’s an odd way to view domestic terrorists.
When Hillary Clinton told the truth about Trump Voters in 2016, she was widely condemned in the press. In September 2016, she suggested half of Trump supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables." The baskets included, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic." The press elevated the throw-away into a major campaign story, as a Beltway full of commentators, following the GOP's orchestrated lead, offered up ceaseless tsk-tsk analysis.
Note that back in August 2016, when the Times newsroom assumed Trump would lose to Hillary Clinton, the daily did post an unvarnished compilation video of Trump supporters at his campaign rallies as they wallowed in racist, sexist and anti-Muslim rhetoric. (“Fuck those dirty beaners.” "Fuck political correctness.” “Fuck you, Hillary.” “Kill her!”) In that piece, the Times held up an unfiltered lens and revealed Trump supporters in their own words, and it wasn’t pretty. After Trump won though, that ugly side of Trump Voters quickly got flushed down the memory hole.
Two years ago, when a deranged Trump supporter and a white-nationalist lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard was arrested for plotting to assassinate leading Democratic officials in hopes of establishing a "white homeland," the media coverage of that story was dwarfed by news that an actor on the hit TV show "Empire" had falsified a police report.
Cheered on now by the relentless propaganda campaign to denigrate free and fair elections, Trump voters are at the forefront of a radical and dangerous political movement designed to undermine democracy. How did the press miss that story?
Yesterday it was the Washington Post. Today it’s Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal calling for Trump’s removal from office:
We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.
It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Billy Bragg & Wilco, “California Stars”
It’s hard to recall that on Tuesday night Democrats secured two of the most important and unlikely Senate victories in party history when they against turned Georgia blue, again. Since then, the news has been tumultuous and infuriating, although frustratingly predictable.
That’s another way of me saying it’s been a helluva week. To mark its end, I’ll simply share one of my all-time favorite songs.
I'd like to dream my troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed and make another day
Underneath my California stars