According to Oliver Darcy and Pamela Engel at The Hill, the Republican Party will have to do something about conservative media after the election is over. Taking for granted that Hillary Clinton will win on November 8, the columnists say that Donald Trump is the result of a “conservative media industrial complex” gone haywire.
“Years before the real-estate tycoon entered onto the political stage, the conservative press – made up of a handful of websites, talk radio, and Fox News opinion programming – started to move the center of gravity in the Republican base further and further right,” they write.
To back up their claims, the two writers turn to President Obama, who made similar remarks at a rally last week.
“Trump didn’t come out of nowhere now,” Obama said Thursday. “For years, Republican politicians and far-right media outlets have been pumping out all kinds of toxic, crazy stuff.”
“The power of the conservative press,” claim Darcy and Engel, “allowed its members to decide who was accepted by the base and who wasn’t. True conservatives could be painted as unprincipled moderates, and, as in the case of Trump, unprincipled moderates could be painted as exactly what the base wanted.”
Okay, first of all, there’s a tiny element of truth to what they’re arguing. It is true that some conservative media outlets go overboard in their criticisms of perfectly respectable Republicans who happen to go off the reservation on one issue or another. Not every elected official can be Ted Cruz. When you get to the point where you despise every Republican who isn’t a card-carrying member of the Freedom Caucus, you’re just helping Democrats.
That said, they have the rest of their analysis completely backwards. Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News did not create the Trump phenomenon. But unlike National Review, Glenn Beck, and Erick Erickson, they didn’t trash Trump on a daily basis, either. You know why? Because they were on the air every day, listening to what conservative voters were saying. Where Beck saw an ideological hurdle too high to overcome, Limbaugh and Hannity and others saw an opportunity: To put up a Republican candidate who…ACTUALLY HAD SOME EXCITEMENT BEHIND HIM!
Darcy, Engel, and Obama are right about one thing: Donald Trump did not create the movement that swelled to support him. But neither did “conservative media.” The movement came from the ground up, inspired by a stagnant economy, an out-of-control president, and a culture that is sliding beyond the sewers into someplace even worse. Conservative media is a reflection of that movement.
And whether Trump wins next month or not, that movement isn’t going anywhere.