Donald Trump’s Candidacy: A Case Study in the Anxious State of Contemporary Media


by SIMON HOUPT, Columnist  

Last updated Friday, Aug. 14, 2015 11:59PM EDT

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump makes his entrance before addressing a GOP fundraising event on Tuesdayin Birch Run, Mich. (Carlos Osorio/AP)


Donald Trump isn’t even the President of the United States yet, and already he’s achieved what both Barack Obama and George W. Bush pledged but failed to do: Be a uniter, not a divider. Last week, before he bellowed and stomped his way through the first Republican candidates’ debate on Fox News, a New York Times story described Trump as “the first post-policy candidate” (and not in a nice way). That view has been mirrored by The Weekly Standard – the standard-bearer of American conservatism and, in many respects, the polar opposite of the Times – which has inveighed against Trump in a series of columns, each one more incredulous than the last at his success.

And yet the developer-slash-fired-Apprentice-host seems impervious to challenges, emboldened even, by the attacks. (Trump’s rise will prompt a knowing nod from any Canadian parent familiar with the books of Robert Munsch, whose classic tale The Boy in the Drawer is about a young girl who discovers a pint-sized boy making a mess in her room; every time she insults the troublemaker, he gets bigger.)

There are plenty of reasons Trump seems to be so popular, some of which have to do with poor polling and the power of reality TV. Still, his seeming resilience is unnerving many in the media, and not just because they’re in uncharted territory.

Last weekend, after Trump telephoned in to CNN to carp about a question he got during the debate from the Fox News star Megyn Kelly (he told CNN’s Don Lemon, “She had blood coming out of her… wherever,” a seemingly anti-female comment that the Weekly Standard noted “might end any other presidential campaign”), Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, was forced to call Trump to de-escalate the growing feud. Even though the channel has been one of the most powerful forces in American politics over the past 20 years, it was Ailes who had to take a knee lest the rabble get too roused.

In the two months since Trump announced his candidacy, pundits have twisted themselves in knots trying to understand and explain his appeal; he is a Rorschach blot in a bad hairpiece.

But what the media are really talking about when they talk about Donald Trump is themselves. Because his candidacy is a case study in the anxious state of contemporary media.



  1. Donald Trump shows that the modern corporate media are slaves to ratings. His exposure on all these cable news networks is due to the fact that he brings in a large audience. For example, the first Republican primary debate two weeks ago had 24 million American viewers compared to 3 million in 2011. Its sad that cable news knows the only way they can generate ratings is by feeding us all a Trump buffet.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here