Trump’s Real Opponent in 2020: The Liberal Media

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Forget the Democrats. 

The real opponent of President Donald Trump’s re-election has already taken the field. It isn’t Joe or Bernie or Liz or Kamala or any of the rest. 

The real Trump opponent in 2020 is …the mainstream media.

In fact, the “Hate Trump Media” as Sean Hannity correctly labels it, or the Leftist State Media as I call it, never left the field after the 2016 election. It spent the first two-plus years of the Trump presidency insisting that Trump had colluded with Vladimir Putin to steal the election. Then, when the results of the Mueller probe were released - shock. There was no there, there. So without missing a beat, as revealed in the leaked transcript of that New York Times staff meeting,  it was on to the next anti-Trump theme: Trump is a racist.

Over here at Fox News, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has nailed the problem exactly. He lasers in on the fourth of the late Theodore H. White’s series of five Making of the President books, The Making of the President 1972.

Before continuing, a word about Teddy White (as he was called) for those who may have come in late. White was a longtime reporter, a journalist’s journalist whose professional career was lived out well before the media descended into the outright left-wing partisanship that has today consumed it. He was a correspondent for Time magazine in 1939, covering China in the run-up to and during the turmoil of World War II. 

He authored notable books on China on his return to post-war America in 1945, then headed to Europe as a correspondent for The Reporter, a magazine of the day. After writing another China book and two novels, White came up with the then-unique idea of covering the imminent 1960 presidential campaign as it unfolded, covering the candidates, the primaries, conventions and fall election in the style of a novel, with the candidates and their leading supporters as the heroes and villains. 

The Making of the President 1960 was an instant bestseller, and captured the Pulitzer Prize, making Teddy White one of the most famous journalists of his day. He went on to write four more Making of the President books, covering the campaigns of 1964, 1968, 1972 and, together, 1976 and 1980. As luck would have it, as a young aide to senior Reagan campaign adviser Drew Lewis (who became Reagan's first Secretary of Transportation), I came along to a fascinating evening of cocktails at Teddy White’s Manhattan home, followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant where I was seated next to the great man himself.

White was nothing if not a connoisseur of both American politics and journalism. He was an old school liberal - which is to say decidedly not what the Left of today has become. Already that evening in 1984 he was still missing the presence of his friend John F. Kennedy, decidedly wary of the course the American left was taking in both the country’s politics and its journalism, not to mention in the larger American culture.

Newt Gingrich has correctly focused on White’s understanding of what was slowly unfolding in his 1972 book. The book chronicled the fight between the far-left Democratic Senator George McGovern in his battle to upend the Democratic establishment of the day and then take on President Richard Nixon. Nixon, but of course, was reviled by the Left and the media of the day.

The former Speaker writes: 

White points out that the elite media and the left did everything they could to undermine and isolate Nixon, but Nixon kept reaching beyond them to the American people. White contrasts the New York-Boston-Washington-Los Angeles crowd with “out there.” He argues Nixon knew he could never break through with the establishment, so he simply ignored them and reached beyond them. 

When the election results came in, it was clear that Nixon understood America better than his left-wing opponents.

The big difference between 1972 and 2020 is that McGovern was an outlier. He was the lone radical in a party that still had deep roots in traditional America.

Today, the radicals are not only in control of the Democratic Party, they are in control of the media. 

There is more here, and it is worth remembering that White had an entire chapter of his 1972 book titled “Power Struggle: President Versus Press.”

White writes this:

What lay at issue in 1972 between Richard Nixon, on the one hand, and the adversary press and media of America, on the other, was simple: it was power.

The power of the press in America is a primordial one. It sets the agenda of public discussion; and this sweeping political power is unrestrained by law. It determines what people will talk and think about -- an authority that in other nations is reserved for tyrants, priests, parties and mandarins.

…And it was for this control that Richard Nixon warred with his enemies of the press all through the election year, and beyond.

…He (Nixon) could see, as every President before him saw, that somewhere in the press he would find a natural adversary. But within the new concentration of power, the significant heights of influence had been ‘seized’ by men of a world-view, and of a culture, entirely alien to his own. These were the adversary press. Its luminaries not only questioned his exercise of power, as all great American journalists have done when examining a President. They questioned his own understanding of America; they questioned not only his actions but the quality of his mind, and his honor as a man. It was a question of who was closest in contact with the mood of the American people- the President or his adversary press?

Substitute the name “Trump” for “Nixon”, multiply by 1000 and behold, the 2020 presidential campaign and its real rivals are revealed: Trump versus the media.

It is worth recalling, as both Gingrich and White point out, that Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern in a sweeping 49-state landslide. Without question, it was Nixon who had a better understanding of the American people than his enemies in the press.

At its core, the struggle we are witnessing now is the 21st century version of Nixon’s war with the media.

Look no further than CNN’s recent seven-hour marathon on climate change with the Democratic candidates. This was, purely and simply, nothing more than an attempt to put the left’s view of climate change on the agenda for 2020, and not coincidentally to make of Trump (yet again) the villain.

There will be no CNN seven hours devoted to, say, abortion and what science says of the life of babies in the womb. That would, of course, infuriate the left’s pro-abortion base. There will be no exploration of the economic facts underlying the abysmal performance of the Obama economy versus the Trump economy. Any discussion of women’s issues in America will focus only on the idea that all women are liberals/progressives of the Left. Ditto with African-Americans and Hispanics or gays.

Anything — anything — that might coincidentally cast a favorable light on Trump, conservatives or individual Trump policies anywhere on the domestic or foreign policy/national security agenda is suppressed in the Leftist State Media. And anything -- and everything -- that can be used to attack Trump, his family, his administration, his agenda, his campaign and anyone even remotely associated with him will be emphasized.

Which brings us back to where we started. As 2020 unfolds, the inevitable will inevitably happen. The Democratic primary field will eventually whittle down to one. The LSM will quickly make that “one” the “anointed one” - with favorable story after gushingly favorable story about the candidate and his or her left-wing agenda.

All of which is to say, the real story of the 2020 campaign has already come clear. 

This is a campaign, as Theodore White said in 1972, to set the “agenda of public discussion” - and with that agenda run the country.

On one side is candidate and president Donald Trump. On the other side, the face of the opposition will be Democrat X. But the real opposition to Trump will be found at CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS,NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Google, Facebook, Twitter and any other left-wing media power center.

What all of these LSM outlets seem not to recognize? 

That the American people are exactly on to the game. Just as their media predecessors helped re-elect Richard Nixon. The irony doesn’t get any thicker than that.

Column Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential Donald Trump

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