There’s a distinct shift in the winds of mainstream media operations taking place right now, but it’s not the one many of us might have hoped for. We’re closing out a period of eight years where deference to the White House, respect for the office even if you disagree with the occupant and a general sense of traditional propriety were the watchwords of the major newspapers and television networks. Even if you took issue with some of Barack Obama’s policies, the important and oh so very historic nature of his presidency demanded a certain level of dignity in the discussion. Failing to do so immediately branded one a racist in the eyes of the media machinery.
If you were watching the disparity in the amount and type of coverage that the two candidates in the presidential campaign received (Trump’s was 91% negative in the final weeks), you already had a clue as to how these attitudes would be shifting on the afternoon of January 20th. Now, with a few days remaining, reporters and editorial boards are already firing the first warning shots and revealing what the new paradigm will look like. For our first example, I would point to a column published yesterday by the WaPo’s Dave Weigel dealing with the fallout from the ongoing battle between the President-Elect and Congressman John Lewis.
You will recall – and Weigel reminds you frequently himself – that any discussion of birtherism was out of bounds because it could easily be portrayed as trying to undermine the legitimacy of the President. (A fair point, as I think most of us would agree.) So what happened when Lewis took the more direct approach of flatly stating that the next president is illegitimate? Hey, folks… the Democrats are just doing what works. (Emphasis added)
It’s true that few Democrats will embrace Lewis’s insult of Trump. It’s just as true that media gatekeepers will define it as out of line, and fringy, to say that Trump is not a legitimate president. But Lewis’s line is exactly the sort of thing that distracted and enraged Democrats, and the same media gatekeepers, when it was directed against Obama. I’m not making an equivalence between the racist birther conspiracy and the “legitimate” jab — I’m just saying that many Democrats, Lewis included, appeared to learn from 2016 that explosive rhetoric that drives the other party to distraction is its own reward…
Trump, who will soon be etched in history books alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, has not given up his habit of Twitter-fighting with people who are mean to him. Democrats have figured out that a #ThisIsNotNormal hashtag is not the way to respond. Their antidote is the New Rudeness.