What did the political careers of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have in common? Many observers would respond to this question by shouting, “Absolutely nothing!” These people would be wrong. In reality, the careers of Reagan and Bush shared at least three important characteristics. They were both viciously assaulted by the “news” media on a daily basis. Neither allowed these transparently partisan attacks to distract them from the core messages of their campaigns. And, not coincidentally, they are the only Republicans who have served two full terms as President since Dwight Eisenhower left office.
There’s a lesson here, if Donald Trump is able to absorb it. Media bias in favor of Democrats is a fact of life. This is blindingly obvious to most serious observers of American politics, and it has been repeatedly confirmed by serious studies of journalistic trends. It is also an utter waste of time for a GOP presidential nominee to whine about it. Complaining about the partisan press is like complaining about the weather. It accomplishes nothing. Yet, instead of emulating the successful strategies of Reagan and Bush, Donald Trump has allowed himself to be tricked into squandering increasingly valuable campaign time bellyaching about media bias.
At his rallies, where he should be contrasting his positive vision for America with the dystopian nightmare into which Hillary Clinton’s distorted worldview will transform the nation, he moans about the media. Jeffrey Lord, who highlights the disgraceful mendacity of the media at NewsBusters, quotes one of these rants. “CNN is like all Trump all the time. All Trump all the time. You walk out of an interview and you say, ‘that was a good interview’ and then you get killed for the rest of the weekend. So they are so biased toward Crooked Hillary. You know they call it: CNN, Clinton News Network.” OK, but the election is not about CNN.
Even more self-defeating than Trump’s time-consuming digressions about the partisan press during his rallies is the opportunity he is missing in social media. Neither Reagan nor Bush possessed anything like the direct access to voters that he enjoys on Facebook and Twitter. He should be using his enormous social media presence to highlight his strengths and Clinton’s weaknesses. Instead, he uses it to preach to the choir. Saturday evening, for example, he fired off this querulous tweet: “I am not just running against Crooked Hillary Clinton, I am running against the very dishonest and totally biased media — but I will win!”
In reality he is almost certainly going to lose if he doesn’t stop mumping about media bias and devote the next 90 days to convincing skeptical voters that he can be trusted with the keys to the White House. And, regardless of wishful thinking about an imaginary “monster vote” by pundits who admit that they aren’t polling experts, he is in real trouble.
What no Republican needs to do, however, is allow transparent media bias to distract him from the core message of his campaign. It is quite possible to beat the press at its own game.