Donald Trump is not my first choice to be the Republican nominee for president.
But the infotainment industry’s alarm about his front-runner status is hard to take, considering their bias and the extent to which they are responsible for his success.
To see what I mean, start by comparing Trump to the last election’s Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
Both are well-educated, successful businessmen. Trump also starred in 14 seasons of “The Apprentice” TV series, where ordinary people and celebrities vied for his approval.
Romney has been active in the Mormon Church as a member, missionary and leader. As a leader, he used his financial background to make sure his church was secure, and he ministered to many of its members.
Romney has been married to the same woman since 1969, his high school sweetheart. He stood by her through multiple sclerosis and cancer. They are parents to five boys.
Trump is a Presbyterian, but not particularly active in his church. He is proud to have dated mostly fashion models. He has been married three times, twice to models and once to an actress. He has five children.
Romney left business for public service. In 1994, he ran against Ted Kennedy for U.S. Senate and lost. In 1999, he went to work to salvage the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. After that, he became the Republican governor of Massachusetts. From 2003 to 2007, Romney eliminated a big deficit and reformed health care.
Donald Trump has never run for, or held, elected public office. He has supported Democratic and Republican candidates. In 2012, he endorsed Romney for president and questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship. Over the years, he has flirted with running for governor of New York and president of the United States.
In 2008, Romney declined to run for re-election in Massachusetts in favor of running for president, but he lost the nomination to Sen. John McCain. In 2014, Romney won the nomination, but lost control of his narrative.
Romney appeared to be the candidate from central casting. The media portrayed him as a heartless vulture capitalist who gutted businesses and issued pink slips. They dug up stories about him giving wedgies to classmates in prep school and forgetting the dog on the roof of the family car. During the second debate on foreign policy, moderator Candy Crowley misstated the record with regard to Benghazi in the president’s favor. Romney was too much of a gentleman to respond.
Trump is not restrained by etiquette. He does not show the media courtesy they do not deserve. He knows how they work. They attacked every Republican who started to rise in the polls: Christie for Bridgegate, Rubio for his spending habits, Fiorina for her secretary-to-CEO story, Carson for his claim of young-thuggishness, and so on.
The media has been trying to get Trump, but can’t help themselves from overreaching. He is contemptuous of them, doesn’t hesitate to express that distain, and loves the free media coverage. They in turn are fascinated, frustrated, and repulsed by him. They can’t resist covering him and attacking him. Trump does not allow the slightest slight to go unanswered. It has only added to his appeal. He announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in June and has been the front runner since.
Take Trump’s position on Muslim immigration. The media mischaracterized it as a total, permanent ban and condemned it as unconstitutional, un-American and immoral. A significant number of people understood it as a not unreasonable attempt to address concerns they share, concerns the federal government has failed to address, and the media demeans.
The New York Times epitomizes the media’s finger-pointing. One column quoted several mental health professionals’ diagnoses of Trump’s supporters. They were angry and resentful, emasculated white males looking for a charismatic strongman to direct their primitive fight-or-flight response. Another described his supporters as stupid and uneducated. Yet another described Trump’s words as ominously echoing the demagogues of the last century. The Washington Post editorialized that Republicans were hateful bigots for supporting Trump.
Here’s a different idea.
Trump is a media creation. He is the product of screaming heads and reality TV, of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Survivor,” and “Real Housewives,” of news coverage that is biased, of candidate debates that are circuses, of years of covering campaigns as though they were horse races in which the only thing that matters is who’s ahead in the polls.
It may not be the only factor in Trump’s front-runner status, but it’s the one escaping media attention.
Halsey Frank is a Portland resident, attorney and former chairman of the Republican City Committee.