Learning from Trump

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that the media has been playing favorites with political candidates.

There is no doubt the recent Presidential election has revealed the true nature of what passes for “news” in this country. Fake news, “progressive” bias, blatant favoritism, collusion with candidates in debates, purposeful misreporting; there seemed to be no end to the betrayal of journalistic ideals in 2016. Before this election, the average American used to think that there may be a lean to the left or right in news reporting, but they trusted that the news was basically neutral. Donald Trump, for all his faults, blew that naïve notion right out of the water. Yes, Rachel Maddow, Megyn Kelly, Chris Wallace, George Stephanopoulos, and the rest of them really did have a hidden ax to grind. They sold their own versions of sizzle so much that the newsworthy steak disappeared from the plate.

Of course, a biased media is nothing new for libertarians. As the bastard children of genuine political discourse, libertarians have had to live with getting short, or no, shrift from the major media probably ever since the Party was founded. Among Libertarians, it is taken for granted that there will be little to no media support for anything a libertarian does or says, no matter how timely or wise. You can bet, however, that every Aleppo moment of failure gets covered.

In this way Libertarians share a strange kinship with Donald Trump. He ran as a Third Party candidate. He was ignored by the Republican leadership, and persecuted by just about every reporter that could type. But at the same time he understood the shallow nature of national reporting, and the power of the social media. He knew that a lot of political warts could be overlooked in time as long as he kept winning. P.T. Barnum may have said any publicity is good publicity, but Donald Trump skillfully tweeted that idea into even genuinely bad publicity is good publicity. Not to get chummy with our new President, I have to admire how he got his message out.   It got him elected. Libertarians need to learn from that.

The kinship stops when it comes to money. He had lots of it, whereas most libertarians do not. Borrowing an idea I read somewhere, small cash resources make Libertarian candidates vulnerable to the media tactics of “the smash and the silence.” First they smash the candidate as being incompetent, or wrong, or foolish, and then they hit the very same candidate with an icy silence over the rest of their campaign. This first creates a bad impression in the minds of voters, and the second cements it. The difference this time? Trump had enough money enabled means to keep the conversation going when CNN and the rest would have thought he would just sit down and be quiet. Unlike him, Libertarians have only enough resources to return the shots made at us in anger once in a while. Like the good soldiers we are, we keep pressing on year after year.

But we do deserve more attention than what we get.  The fundamental political question confronting America isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about Republicans and Democrats supporting an overpowering government versus Libertarians protecting an ever weaker individual. You would think that would make good media copy. Making America great again should be about the Libertarian notion that the power of individuals protected by law is what let the USA grow over time into the powerhouse that it is. The primacy of government in American life is what will actually kill the American Dream. Sadly, Trump isn’t about that.

Still, the Trump has a lot to offer. Let’s not be too proud to learn from the opposition. If the media says bad things about us, at least they know we’re here.

Donald, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Just don’t ask us for a loan.

Pete Blome is Chairman of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer