What had led to the rise of Donald Trump? He’s a candidate of whom the majority of Americans view unfavorably, labeling him as xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, and completely ignorant of how the world actually works. Even the successes he touts, such as his business acumen, are pockmarked with failures and bankruptcies. He’s abrasive, has been noted for inciting violence at his rallies, has the grammar of a child, and has managed to insult or alienate nearly every group of citizens except for white, male voters.
And yet, despite all of that and the widespread panic that the thought of a Trump primary win causes the GOP as they see it may lead to the collapse of their party, and despite the fact that the rest of the world panics over the thought of an actual Trump presidency that may lead to the collapse of the world, Trump remains ahead, both in the number of votes, the delegate count, and in the polls.
Republicans, of course, blame Obama.
Senator Bob Corker said that what is currently happening within the Republican primary is at least partially the fault of Obama, a result of “years of anger with the overreach of the Obama administration.” Louisiana Governor and failed presidential candidate Bobby Jindal made a similar argument, saying that Trump’s rise is due to Obama not being dramatic enough.
“Let’s be honest: There would be no Donald Trump, dominating the political scene today if it were not for President Obama.
“I believe that voters tend to act in open-seat presidential elections to correct for the perceived deficiencies of the incumbent…. After seven years of the cool, weak and endlessly nuanced “no drama Obama,” voters are looking for a strong leader who speaks in short, declarative sentences.”
Democrats blame Republicans. Former Secretary of State and current Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton did not hesitate to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the opposing party.
“What the Republicans have shown with their extremist tactics, they are now reaping with Donald Trump’s candidacy,” Clinton said, pointing to the Republicans latest refusal to even hold a hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court nomination Merrick Garland as the latest in a long line of obstruction under the Obama Administration. Republicans, Clinton believes, have carved a path towards a Donald Trump candidacy.
“These things are connected. Once you make the extreme normal, you open the door to even worse.”
President Obama has also made similar claims, believing that the last seven years of Republican opposition and extremism has led to the rise of Donald Trump. He stated that it is the Republican antics that are responsible for “creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive. He’s just doing more of what has been done for the last seven and a half years.”
It’s no surprise that Republicans point the finger at Obama, while Democrats believe that Republican extremism has led to the most extreme candidate in the primary.
Many others, however, also believe there is a third party to blame for the rise of Donald Trump — the media.
And famed statistician Nate Silver, who has made a name for himself for predicting elections with an almost unnerving accuracy, believes the media has a lot to do with it as well. But, Silver says, Trump’s rise goes beyond just the media. In fact, Silver believes the answer to Donald Trump’s ascension lies within Donald Trump himself.
Trump, Silver says, has “hacked” the media.
Yes, Trump has dominated the news, Silver says, but the story doesn’t stop there.
“From the start, [Trump has] been a media phenomenon. According to the New York Times, Trump has received the equivalent of $1.9 billion in television coverage while having spent only $10 million on paid advertising. By contrast, Trump’s Republican rivals combined have received slightly less than $1.2 billion worth of television coverage, meaning that Trump has been the subject of the clear majority (62 percent) of candidate-focused TV coverage of the Republican race.”
What is interesting — and, perhaps, ominous — is not the amount of coverage Trump has received, Silver believes, but the idea that Trump can receive coverage any time he decides. And this ability, which is what caused Silver to state that Trump has “hacked” the media, leads to even broader, “thornier” questions about the media itself.
First of all, Silver believes that Trump has made the “editorial prerogative” of media outlets nearly a joke.
“For instance, with [Trump’s] ability to make news any time he wants with a tweet, news conference or conveniently placed leak, Trump has challenged news organizations’ editorial prerogative. Should the press cover a candidate differently when he makes trolling the media an explicit part of his strategy, on the theory that some coverage is almost always better than none?”
But even more than that, Trump is challenging what it means to have truth in reporting and what true objectivity in the news actually means. And there is little doubt that he is winning this challenge.
“[…]Trump also challenges the media’s notion of what it means to be ‘objective.’ Among other things, Trump has frequently invoked misogyny and racism; he has frequently lied, and he has repeatedly encouraged violence against political protesters. As far as we’re concerned at FiveThirtyEight, these are matters of fact and not opinion and to describe them otherwise would make our reporting less objective. Other news outlets will bend over backward to avoid describing them in those terms, however.”
Furthermore, the impact of Donald Trump’s rise and his historical campaign will be far-reaching and have implications that reverberate far beyond what has been thought. It’s disturbing that Trump has learned to manipulate the media, but what is far more disturbing is what Trump’s candidacy has exposed, both in American politics and in the Republican Party.
“Put another way, Trump has hacked the system and exposed the weaknesses in American political institutions. He’s uncovered profound flaws in the Republican Party. He’s demonstrated that third-rail issues like racism and nationalism can still be a potent political force. He’s exploited the media’s goodwill and taken advantage of the lack of trust the American public has in journalism. Trump may go away — he’s not yet assured of winning the GOP nomination, and he’ll be an underdog in November if he does — but the problems he’s exposed were years in the making, and they’ll take years to sort out.”
So although America may not see Trump clinch the Republican nomination, it may continue to see Trump-like candidates in his wake who flaunt outrageous ideas in order to make headlines and keep themselves and their candidacies as the top story.
[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images News]