Weeks before Donald Trump left the Oval Office, I, like many others, speculated as to just how cable news pundits were going to salvage their ratings once their “golden goose” had completed his first term. It may make others uncomfortable to hear, but the truth of the matter was that the mainstream media loved Donald Trump, or rather, they loved the bombastic, brash, and often even crass features of Trump that made their coverage so accessible to viewers.
Now-former CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said that Trump “…may not be good for America but [he’s] damn good for CBS”. CNN President Jeff Zucker admitted to recognizing that coverage of Trump brings in massive audiences. After the release of the Mueller Report showed that there was no nefarious and grand conspiracy between the Trump 2016 campaign team and the Russian Federation to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, the ratings of CNN and MSNBC – two strong proponents of “Russiagate” – plunged. Megyn Kelly even recounted an anecdote to Glenn Greenwald on her podcast where Lawrence O’Donnell – before the 2016 election – told her he was on a “sinking ship” with regards to MSNBC and its faltering ratings at the time. And back in 2014, Politico even made the case that MSNBC’s ratings were entering freefall at the time because the network could no longer criticize the last Republican President – George W. Bush.
But Donnie-tiny-hands is now gone! And in the wake of Joe Biden’s first term as President beginning, it turns out that many predictions that a hard ratings-a gonna’ fall were dead-on. In the last week of January, CNN saw their ratings drop 44% across three hours of primetime compared to the three weeks which preceded; MSNBC saw ratings drop around 19% for their 8:00 and 10:00 primetime slot.
So what can you do?
Well if you’re CNN, The New York Times or The Washington Post, you scramble to find a new villain you can paint the entire right side of the political establishment as emblematic of, rather than give coverage to topics more pressing for millions of households.
Enter Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who, for the last two weeks, has come under fierce scrutiny from both the political establishment and cable news networks in response to a slew of controversial and antagonistic remarks made by Greene over the last few years. Now perhaps, the pearl-clutching over remarks regarding falsified school shootings or supposed encouraging of the QAnon conspiracy theory or…blue beams of light instigating California wildfires is in itself warranted.
Then again, I suppose fricken’ laser beams attached to fricken’ sharks’ heads rendering California into a fiery landscape isn’t any more outlandish a theory than foreign entities manipulating the capitol riots of January 6th, but surely, both would never be entertained for very long by the most serious of individuals.
Panel after panel, op-ed after op-ed, it would seem that the mainstream media’s endgame is, through intense coverage and as quickly as they can, to get the message out that Greene is as incompetent as they come to retain her seat. But why is it that this undertaking feels so oddly familiar?
Oh that’s right, because in 2016, the Hilary Clinton campaign and the DNC, as revealed by WikiLeaks, collaborated with the media to “elevate” Donald Trump during coverage; Clinton believed Trump to be too extreme for the Republican Party, and so she estimated her chances for victory would increase drastically if more and more of the country was able to witness through extensive coverage how detestable and unpleasant Trump presented himself as.
But we all know how that song-and-dance went.
And now a similar approach is being conducted against Greene. The irony however is that this type of “commentary” from corporate media in fact will only fan the flames which makeup Greene’s base. As journalists and pundits alike no doubt look to shine spotlight after spotlight upon Greene’s previous remarks and controversies, and House Democrats oust Greene from her committee seats, Greene in fact has had the last laugh, after she raked in hundreds of thousands of donations over the course of last week, many of which she claims come from “grassroots” followers.
Make no mistake. Greene will not fall out of favor any time soon with her base in Georgia’s 14th congressional deep-red district, but that being said, the fringe-faction of the GOP voter base that Greene appeals to will never be enough to seat Greene, or anyone else like her built from Alex Jones’ laboratory for that matter, in the Oval Office. To get to the presidency, you need – and sit down for this one because it’s gonna be a jaw-dropper – policies! And not just any policy, but policies that can appeal broadly to both the right and to the disaffected left. This was largely the key to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 that many would like to forget about.
Remember that in 2016, Trump was able to extend his appeal even to former Barack Obama voters, who had felt let down by eight years of policies that generally favored status quo neoliberal and globalist agendas, rather than the systemic “change” they felt Obama had initially promised them. Daniel Allott’s book On The Road in Trump’s America further sheds light on the economic disparity Obama-to-Trump voters felt as their wages remained stagnant, and their jobs remained offshored and outsourced.
Conversely, what is it that Greene has in stock with regards to policies that have the potential to improve upon her constituents’ material well-being? The important factor that separates Greene from Trump, is that Greene largely cannot even entertain the notion of touting a faux-populist rhetoric that can appeal to voters who are economically liberal. Instead, Greene has determined that it is more important for her to dive headfirst into the culture war that plagues many factions of the country.
Greene has gone on the record of flaunting her support for defunding Planned Parenthood, fighting socialism, and choosing to speak in hyperbolic tongues whether it comes to labelling the Black Lives Matter movement as a “radical Marxist” group, or citing the health restrictions in the U.S. Capitol in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic as “Democrat tyrannical control”.
The type of base Greene appeals to will never be enough countrywide to help ascend any type of candidate to the presidency, at least not without more dynamic policies brought to the table which can be used to combat economic dire straits. Yet the way the press has been peddling hour after hour with coverage of Greene not only is being used in the most cynical frame of mind in order to drive back up ratings, but to also pander to “resistance liberals” that Greene represents a much more powerful and threatening force than she actually is.
And with this increased “villainizing” – complete with even a Twitter ban, albeit temporary – comes also the lowering of standards for all voters alike; Republican voters deep in Greene’s district will keep electing her because she serves as an annoying foil to the liberal media, while Democratic voters will look to quickly place their support behind any ol’ potential Democratic primary opponent based on the standards that they are simply “not Marjorie Taylor Greene”.
All the while, the mainstream media, what with its horrible track record, will continue to elevate more and more the “danger” Greene supposedly represents, fomenting her base’s beyond doubt distrust in the press, and inadvertently pushing them further towards more conspiracies like “Stop the Steal”.
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