Donald Trump is extremely popular among Republicans. They easily nominated him for president in 2016 and 2020 and during his presidency, when Independents and Democrats rejected him right from the start, Republicans were always in his corner.
And yet to look at the mainstream media, you would think anti-Trumpism on the right was a real movement. The few voices in the right-wing wilderness who buck Trump are heralded at every turn.
Emma Green of the Atlantic recently rewarded former Rep. Will Hurd with a tongue-bathy profile, including a tasteful black and white photo of the former congressman, arms outstretched as if pleading with God against Trumpism.
Similarly, the New York Times recently reported on 100 Republicans who “threaten” to split from the GOP. Everybody of note in the article was a “former” something and “threatening” to leave the party after what America has just gone through is sort of like England deciding Hitler was up to no good a few weeks into the Blitz.
Additionally, there is the ongoing lionization of Liz Cheney, who would love to unify the party behind bombing more brown people, “hero” that she is. And of course, the depictions of Sen. Mitt Romney as another #Resist icon, just forget how he sought Trump’s endorsement in 2012 and begged him to be Secretary of State in 2017.
Anti-Trumpism from the right is not a real thing. It certainly pales in comparison to true anti-Trumpism from the left, which was expressed at the ballot box in 2018 and 2020 with massive Democratic victories in the House, Senate, and White House. Want to know what real opposition to Donald Trump looks like? Joe Biden is the current President of the United States.
But the press is obsessed with the fairy tale narrative of Trump power being undermined from the right. Why?
I think it comes down to two things: Cocktail parties and grandmas.
You have to remember that for the Washington political press corps, Congress isn’t just an abstract body of people making laws far removed from the rest of us. These are their coworkers in many ways. They see senators and representatives every day the same way most of us see a neighbor or someone who works in the same office building as you.
A lot of the time, those relationships are even more intimate. They trade information, war stories, jokes, and more.
When Republicans are huddling with journalists in the Capitol building, they aren’t yelling at them like Trump about the “enemy of the people.”
So to these reporters, Trumpism is the outlier. After all, the Republicans on Capitol Hill are so nice to them. They think, “Trump can’t really represent the party I’ve been covering for so long. They can’t really be like this.”
And so they go looking for Republicans who will reflect this mindset back at them, never mind that this is not representative of Republican/conservative attitudes writ large. If the press covered the true, mass, Republican sentiment, they would be elevating a parade of MAGA-hat wearing zombies and nothing else (which is not to say we don’t get wall-to-wall profiles of Trump voters while the media still can’t be bothered to cover Biden voters).
The other explanation I have for the press’ brand of bad coverage on this topic is grandmas.
In case you haven’t noticed, most of the press corps, especially those covering national politics, are white. And they’re mostly white men.
Which means that there are probably a lot of members of the press corps with parents and grandparents who fall right into the Fox News/Trump voter key demographic: Old white people.
These journalists must now contend with the fact that their beloved Mee-Maw voted to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States, voted to rip migrant families apart, and voted for injecting bleach into veins during a once in a generation pandemic.
They have to correct for that somehow. Grandma’s party can’t be this insane, right? So maybe in order to correct for what is happening before them, they increase coverage of these outliers. If the Times plays up a meaningless group of 100 GOP officials – the equivalent of a gathering in an MSNBC green room – they don’t have to feel so bad about grandma or grandpa’s wholehearted endorsement of base bigotry.
I also happen to believe that this reasoning underlies a lot of the nonsense coverage of Trump’s racism as “economic anxiety,” and why for so long the press insisted that racism be described as “racially charged.”
The bottom line is that from the right, opposition to Trump does not seriously exist. Trump is the Republican Party, and the Republican Party is Trump. He is the modern equivalent of their Reagan, but instead of a second term landslide they’re propping him up after a single-term butt kicking by Joe Biden.
But make no mistake: He is their guy.