Trump, the mainstream media and a cure for hysteria
Before Donald Trump establishes himself in the White House, here’s hoping he does something huge for American journalism.
He’s already been a huge boon to journalists, serving as a pinata for thwacks and clicks and fear and clicks and panic and clicks and outrage, shame, clicks and more clicks.
But sometimes, clicks just aren’t enough.
So how about gigantic, five-gallon jugs chock-full of Prozac, or other such antidepressants, placed in every newsroom? Because it should be clear by now that something is needed, since much of journalism leans to the political left, and that many of the left are beyond fear and hysterics over Trump.
Now that I think of it, I’m no doctor, so I can’t very well prescribe handfuls of drugs. But like you, I am a consumer of news, watching and reading all the tears and fears and paranoia in political news these days.
It’s as if some evil zookeeper has released a boa constrictor into the friendly meerkat exhibit when the cute little mammals were sleeping.
And all we hear are pitiful, high-pitched meerkat shrieks and then, those tiny paws frantically scratching upon the glass.
Sad. It’s all so very sad.
Like the tears of NBC’s Matt Lauer of "Today," and his colleague Andrea Mitchell. They were overcome by emotion the other day when outgoing Vice President Joe Biden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from outgoing President Barack Obama.
"I’m glad there were no cameras in my apartment yesterday because I was just sitting there, weeping," Lauer said on "Today." "I just burst out crying when I saw that moment. It was incredible."
Mitchell, who agreed it was incredible, was also "in tears."
There’s a lot to unpack there, but it’s already been established that I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m not even an expert on the emotions of small exotic mammals.
So I’ll just join Lauer in being grateful there were no cameras in his apartment when he wept over Biden and Obama.
Yet cameras or no, the idea of such weeping, or those meerkat paws on the glass, it all makes a rather hideous sound, doesn’t it?
Lately it’s been so loud that Americans who don’t give two figs for politics can’t hear another noise of even greater political urgency: the feet of Democratic senators scrambling as they run for re-election in states where Republican Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton just a few months ago.
There are 10 of them, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat, seeking re-election in a state Trump won by 19 points. And Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Indiana Democrat, who also is vulnerable in his pro-Trump state.
And so, here’s the Democratic game: Delegitimize Trump even before his term begins, use outrage and media anger toward Trump to shovel it out to America, and shame anyone who dares say otherwise, to save those 10 senators running in the pro-Trump states.
In the primaries, Trump wasn’t elected by Republicans to build Washington. They elected him to break Washington, to take his hammer to the GOP establishment that took them for granted, lied to them, shipped their jobs overseas and used patriotism in much the same way Democrats use that old race card.
So they want Trump to crack that Washington egg wide open. He threatens not only the GOP establishment – if you doubt me, check out those sly, malevolent looks from GOP establishment little finger Sen. Lindsey Graham – but also the Democratic establishment.
The Democrats don’t want war in their own party. It’s coming though. The Democrats are now the keepers of the status quo.
So what do you do if your voters are getting itchy? You bind them with fear and anger.
It’s a sound partisan strategy to delegitimize an incoming president. It’s not good for the nation and it is immoral, but it’s good politics, if you’re given media cover. And the Democrats clearly have that.
Here’s a recent example of that cover. Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia said recently that he’d skip the Trump inauguration because, in his words, Trump was not a legitimate president.
This was reported as an unprecedented slap against Trump by an African-American who gained national prominence decades ago as a civil rights leader. Trump tweeted back and they got to scrapping.
What wasn’t reported was that Lewis did the same thing years ago, boycotting President George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration for the same reason: He perceived another Republican as illegitimate.
So it was an old tactic, presented as something new and heroic.
"I don’t think the Democrats are going to roll over," Tom Bevan, publisher and co-founder of Real Clear Politics, said in an interview on my podcast, "The Chicago Way."
"The media certainly isn’t going to reform itself and begin giving him a fair shake. And I don’t necessarily expect Trump to unilaterally disarm and stop tweeting and start acting the way people think he should act as president. It’s the great unknown," Bevan said.
So what should people do when the media is on one side, most of the states are on the other and there’s no giant jug of Prozac around?
One alternative cuts through all the noise, from the panicked scratching of meerkats to the loud bellowing of the politicians.
It’s not some pill. It comes in booklet form and you can keep one in your pocket. If you haven’t read it, lately, now’s a good time: The Constitution of the United States of America.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His Twitter handle is @john_kass.