Trump's Successful Assaults on the Pillars of Democracy
17 May 2017
Arthur S. Reber
Beginning back in the early days of Trump’s campaign he hit on a strategy that, frankly, I don’t think anyone anticipated and if anyone did they likely would have thought it a dead-end. Attack the media. I don’t think it was a conscious decision on Trump’s part — just a spontaneous reaction against some bad press and, when his fans responded lustily, it became a central theme of his rallies and marches. Generally, politicians want to have good relations with the press, nurture contacts with influential reporters — after all, they’re the ones who get messages out. Trump, of course, also found another way to get his messages out: Twitter. A couple of tweet-storms and who needs CBS?
The ensuing war on the media has been surprisingly successful. Despite the rocky first few months of his presidency, his supporters still approve of the job he’s doing. In fact, a recent poll found that fully 85% of Trump voters give him top grades and approve wholeheartedly of his actions. The way they’re handling the tsunami of bad news is by concluding that much of it is fake news, that what is true is trivial and overblown by a biased press, and that if it weren’t for the lies and distortions of the hated media (read WaPo, NYT, HuffPo) his presidency would be flying along doing great things. Those supporters who do acknowledge that things have been a bit dicey say that’s just fine. He said he was going to upset Washington and do things differently and he is.

In the first few months in office Trump also ran into conflicts with other elements of government and, in a very Trumpish fashion, he employed the same tactic, attack. First we went after the various intelligence agencies and, as with the anti-media assault, the parallel smearing of the US intelligence agencies has had a similar impact. The narrative from the pro-Trump right is that the rank and file in the FBI and the CIA hate the president and are constantly undermining him and leaking untruths designed to compromise his efforts. The drumbeat is they should be investigating Hillary’s emails and tracking down who in the government is leaking information rather than chasing after Flynn or pursuing Trump’s links with the Russians. Comey has become their new bête noir who deserved to be sacked. The veracity of those “memos” that Comey has are doubted because he wrote them and he is just a bitter and disloyal man. The leak of top-secret intel to the Russians is viewed as a “ho-hummer” that has only been made to look serious because the biased press and untrustworthy intelligence agencies are making a mountain out of a molehill.

The third line of attack has been on the courts and seems to have stemmed from the same impulsiveness of Trump and, perhaps no longer surprisingly, has had a similar impact. His supporters no longer trust the courts and see the Federal judiciary as just another arm of the liberal hegemony that is as biased in their views of Trump as the media and the CIA. The several injunctions issued against Trump’s Executive Orders are critiqued as the actions of left-wing activist judges not as serious deliberations by an unbiased judiciary. They also view Nunes’ and Session’s recusals as the result of media pressure, not because of anything they did wrong.

The end product is predictable. Trump’s base now views everyone not with them as against them. And not simply against in some principled manner but viciously against as part of a wide-spread, leftist, coastal, pseudo-intellectual plot to undermine the person they see as the only one who can, indeed, make American great again.

This stance, once taken, is remarkably resistant to argument. Any effort to set the record straight or to persuade supporters that something is amiss in the White House is treated as just more more fake-news, more displays of Trump-hatred and continued anger and frustration over having lost the election.

To see this in all its glory wander around sites like Drudge, Breitbart, Fox News, or Infowars — or, as I’ve discovered to my surprise and dismay, post some anti-Trump material on Facebook and watch what comes back.
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