The Media and the Ascension of Donald Trump

11/10/16 | Arvind Veluvali | Founder


The election is over. And, barring some mass revolt by electors, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

Protests have swept the nation. Some take to the streets chanting “NOT MY PRESIDENT,” while others are still trying to wrap their heads around this idea. The question that seems to be in everyone’s mind: “how did we get here?” How is it possible that a man so thoroughly and frequently excoriated by the media, countless politicians, and even the Republican establishment, will be taking the oath of office?

I contend that the very media that, time and again, disavowed Trump, is largely responsible for his meteoric rise.

Ever since Trump descended that escalator almost two years ago, it seemed that the media would not not stop covering his campaign. Trump, with his incendiary rhetoric, enthralled and terrified the country; it’s estimated that he was given close to two billion dollars in free airtime as a result.

Late-night hosts and political pundits lambasted Trump’s proposals–from a ban on Muslim immigration, an expansion of stop-and-frisk, and a border wall financed by the Mexican government. All lines of attack on Trump seemed centered around one reaction: “this is ridiculous.” Surely a Trump presidency could not be actualized.

The media narrative drove Hillary Clinton’s response. Just like them, she never took Trump’s candidacy as seriously as she should have, brushing off his bluster. If you liked Trump or his policies, you were a racist, a sexist, a “deplorable.”

All this only addressed the symptoms, not the root cause; in other words, Trump’s attackers focused on Trump, not his reason for being. People–mostly the white, working class citizens who turned out overwhelmingly for Trump–felt forgotten. They were being swindled by Washington and forced to buy into a broken system, a “rigged” system.

And who was responsible for this notion of a broken system in the first place? The media, with its wall-to-wall coverage of terror attacks, violence in the inner cities, and dysfunction in Washington, seemed to state that America was doomed, under constant threat from foreigners, immigrants, even people at home. They created the perfect climate for a person like Trump–a man who would fight these conditions and “Make America Great Again.”

When the media pushed the narrative that Hillary Clinton would win handily, that Trump stood no chance, they were only stoking this fury. It was easy to believe that the system was rigged when the news media–ostensibly an objective institution–was so aggressively endorsing one candidate.

When the media shrugged off Trump and his supporters, they created the backlash that we saw on Tuesday. Trump’s divisive rhetoric made for a great spectacle, and often spectacles are just that: farces designed to entertain, not to be taken seriously. In dismissing Trump yet still covering him, the news media only fed his message: the system is broken, and only he can fix it.

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