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Why is Trump popular?

Media madness misses the clues


For many months, day after day, the first thing that appeared on much of the national news media in bold black letters was the word Trump, often accompanied by a photograph of Mr. Trump. By early March 2016, some of the political pundits were saying that the GOP (Republican Party) was unhappy with the political candidate they had created. But the Republican Party didn’t put Mr. Trump at the top of the first page of those many editions of the national news media and pundit blogs. And it wasn’t advertising paid for by Mr. Trump. It was the media editors who put Trump’s name in headlines. Some New York Times analysts believe that Trump has received $1.9 billion worth of free exposure. There appears to be a reason for that editorial behavior.

According to Jim Rutenberg writing in the March 20, 2016, NY Times, “News organizations old and new are jockeying for survival.... With CNN’s heavy coverage of Mr. Trump, the network’s ratings have increased about 170 percent in prime time this year.” Rutenberg cites Advertising Age: CNN was able to bill $200,000 for a 30-second spot advertisement on debate nights, about 40 times higher than their usual price.

There is more, however, to the phenomenon we are witnessing this political season. Some national media people simply failed to recognize the anguish that a significant segment of American society is experiencing. Glen Reynolds, writing in the March 23, 2016, USA Today newspaper, quotes David Brooks who is a prominent NY Times columnist. “They [American citizens] have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams.... Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand.... We expected Trump to fizzle because we...did not listen.... I have to change the way I do my job.”

Why are some people angry? Why are so many people disenchanted with our Washington government? The late Sam Walton established Walmart stores. The Walton family now has a net worth of 149 billion dollars thanks, in part, to free trade agreements and the U.S. Congress. When manufacturing jobs are sent to the world’s cheapest labor markets, it allows Walmart—and many other companies—to buy the products at very low prices and then enjoy a huge price markup when they sell at retail in the United States. But the real price is lost job opportunities in the United States.

The next issue coming soon to a job near you is computerized automation. Some of the best-qualified people who are looking at this issue foresee a loss of four of every ten jobs in the not-too-distant future. That will surely produce immense social and political problems. The world’s seven billion people are going to be competing vigorously for the planet’s resources. We are engaged in expensive military operations with no plan to win the conflict or end the engagement. And problems resulting from climate change seem to be an increasing possibility. Our government has a serious 18 trillion dollar debt and is concerned about financing social security, health care, and other programs that we need. Wages, for many who do hold jobs, have not kept up with price increases.

Maybe some coarse political talk that stirs our imagination is a good thing. The news media provide vital platforms for democratic discussion, coarse or otherwise. The frequently malfunctioning garden variety government we seem to have isn’t going to be good enough to deal with the array of problems that confront us. Something needs to change. The ultimate authorities—the voters—will sort it out.

Jack Stevenson is a retired infantry officer, civil service and private corporation employee who now reads history, follow issues important to Americans and writes commentary from his home in Pensacola, Florida.

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