Trump Bashing the Media Channels America’s Disgust With Its Own Elites
President Trump’s latest news conference was at once a lot of fun, and kind of frustrating. My initial reaction was telling. I couldn’t help thinking, “Gosh I wish Ted Cruz were the man behind that microphone. He would deliver devastating answers, dismantle the reporters’ logic, cite chapter and verse of their actual news stories illustrating their leftist bias, and finish the event with a thin, victorious smile — having proved in meticulous detail that he was the smartest and best-prepared man in the room.”
Instead, Trump spoke in sweeping terms, dismissing the press corps as biased. He taunted, mocked, and all but jeered at the cream of the Washington press corps. He spoke in the way that he seems to have picked up from dealing with construction workers over decades in the building trade — bluntly and emotionally, with large dollops of chest-thumping. In pop culture terms, Trump sounded like a Robert De Niro character, confronting a room full of Jude Laws and Kelsey Grammars.
Trump Understands Why We’re Frustrated
But wasn’t that a reason Trump won the nomination, and Ted Cruz didn’t? The conservative who played the game of our country’s Progressive elites by their own rules at their best schools and beat them every time on the facts, the logic, and history … didn’t win over the voters. The guy whose politics were all over the map, who was driven by a simple, gut love of the concrete reality of America, was able to turn all those blue states red. He connected with blue collar workers, frustrated family men and women, and worried patriots, because he naturally spoke their language.
Too many conservatives whose policies and ideals really would benefit the country and protect the common man speak just like our toxic elites — who view national borders as tedious nuisances to vacation travel and millions of their fellow Americans as “deplorable.” That’s the reason my mailman dad would angrily switch off National Public Radio in our apartment — even when a (rare) conservative was speaking, or an announcer was just giving straight news. “Turn off those liberal fairies,” he would say, annoyed by their accents and diction. Come to think of it, he was probably irritated by mine. Think of Martin Crane rolling his eyes when Frasier and Niles start nattering about French cheeses.
Trump’s populism is driven not by ethnic resentment, cultural backlash, or ideology — but the concrete reality that our economic and political systems have been optimized to benefit a narrow class.
What’s Really Deplorable is the Economy
The disconnect between our preening, self-congratulatory elites and harried, struggling Americans is real and based on more than cultural resentment, as a recent fact-packed story in Commentary reveals. Go read for yourself conservative scholar Nicholas Eberstadt’s alarming analysis of the economic indicators too often ignored by economists. What he concludes is that Trump’s populism is driven not by ethnic resentment, cultural backlash, or ideology — but the concrete reality that our economic and political systems have been optimized to benefit a narrow class of highly educated people with a homogeneous, narrow set of “acceptable” cultural, political, and religious views.
For proof of that fact, remember what Trump strategist Steve Bannon said at the Vatican in 2014 about the immoral 2008 bailout of reckless bankers’ gambling on shady mortgage investments. When ordinary taxpaying workers go to Vegas and clean out their savings, or get hooked on Vicodin after an injury, there isn’t some massive federal program that will make them whole again. There’s no golden parachute. But there are, as Eberstadt points out, just enough forms of government support (i.e., disability benefits) to keep people barely surviving. And in our staggering jobs market, that’s a temptation to which far too many once hard-working Americans are succumbing.
Learning to Talk Trump
Rather than dryly repeat them, let me sum up Eberstadt’s conclusions in terms that my dad would have gotten, and offer the kind of response that he and millions of Trump voters likely would have.
- Rich investors are doing better than ever, but ordinary people are struggling to live as well as their parents did.
- Unemployment is down, but that is only true because that number doesn’t count the tens of millions who have given up looking for jobs. (But we keep on importing a million unskilled workers every year — so the snooty people whose jobs are safe can feel good about themselves, and have lots of ethnic restaurants to choose from.)
- Economic growth has slowed, and its benefits have narrowed to those social classes best at lobbying for their interests or shaping our institutions to protect themselves. (Yeah, the rich get richer, and the snobs rig the system. What else is new?)
What’s valuable about Eberstadt’s essay is that it repeats in sober prose and alarming fact the grim truths that Donald Trump talks about in fiery Tweets and angry exchanges with cosseted reporters. There’s a very good reason that millions of people saw the need to “Make America Great Again,” and it had nothing to do with preserving “white cis-gendered heterosexual privilege.”
Whether Trump and his team can overcome the massive institutional resistance to his proposals, and craft policies that actually change things, only time will tell. We don’t know if he has the answers. But at least he could hear the questions.