Thursday, October 20, 2016

Giving the gift

The holidays are right around the corner. It’s a time of reflection, excitement and no matter one’s religious predilections a there’s a tradition of gift giving. Talking about the holidays before Halloween is usually met with revulsion and resistance. This time it’s different. While we can’t grant everybody’s #1 wish – that the 2016 U.S. Presidential election cycle be over – maybe we can do something close.  Let’s give Donald J. Trump what he’s been talking about.

I’m wary of adding to the proliferation of commentary on the Grand Old Party’s nominee. But then maybe there’s something to the Trump complaints. Instead of dismissing everything that comes out of his mouth as made up, perhaps we should be doing is more of what he worries about, not less.

The more recent complaints from the real-estate tycoon have to do with media bias. All “the media” does is lie, distort and never gives him fair coverage. This same media generated over a billion dollars of free brand and name recognition that took him from a quirky idea of a candidate who had to pay people to attend his announcement to becoming the GOP standard bearer. Why not dial back the coverage of him? In many states his poll numbers are competitive with Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson. The LP crew gets a miniscule amount of coverage. Let’s afford Donald the same. Imagine what the last few weeks would have been like if the Donald coverage had been curbed.

The media fell for a classic Trump manipulation again. He mused out loud at a rally in front of a few thousand people that the system was “rigged” and he was “worried” about having the election stolen from him. There is no evidence anywhere from any source that legitimizes this theory. The same system he now demonizes is the one that served him well during the Republican primary season. Rather than ignore the patent absurdity of the comment the media, however, fell hook, line and sinker for it. Op-eds, talking heads, etc. have all fulminated at the undermining of the American electoral system that has seen the peaceful transfer of power throughout the country’s entire history. It’s made for great coverage.

Trump’s outlandish claim got traction. He got what he wanted: attention which he interprets as support. (Just like he believes the attendance and enthusiasm at his rallies should equate to support in the electoral college.) Trump doubled down at the third debate – refusing to say that he’d accept the result of the election saying he’d “look at it at the time.” Nearly everybody in the political establishment are up in arms over this, rightfully so. That question, however, would never have been asked if the ranting had been left to the candidate and a few thousand of his supporters.

Who knows what the next 19 days will portend. It’s hard to imagine anything more outrageous that what’s been seen so far. But let’s not be surprised. Let’s conspire against crazy talk. Let’s put stories front and center about things that matter. Damon Linker wrote a powerful piece asking why there’s not been any substantive discussion the five (yes, FIVE) wars that America is currently fighting.

As a big and small ‘l’ libertarian I am loathe to advocate any curb on freedom of speech. I’m not doing that here. I recognize that there’s a limitation on what mainstream news organizations can cover in limited time and space environment. My preferred candidate gets less coverage because he has not yet demonstrated electoral strength that would justify equal time. There’s a good chicken-egg argument here, but that’s not this issue.

This issue is in perpetuating false narratives. It also gives the media the opportunity to make Trump an honest man. Cover him in context. And don’t get sucked into crazy talk. If that had happened Trump would have given up on his claims since they weren’t getting traction. That’d be the gift that we’d all be happy to receive two months before Christmas.