Politico declares Donald Trump 'the main character' of 2022


Last Friday, Politico’s Playbook newsletter declared that Donald Trump is "the main character of 2022.” That newsletter effectively argues that there is a lot of news surrounding Trump in the closing months before Election Day, and he’s had enormous influence on whom Republicans nominated for offices in this year’s midterm elections. 

I’m not going to argue that the controversies surrounding Trump, the hunt for missing documents at Mar-a-Lago, the hearings of the January 6 committee, and all the rest aren’t newsworthy or worth discussing. (I’d also note that we get a lot less “you won’t believe this crazy thing Trump just said on social media” coverage than we did when he was on Twitter, and I think the country is better off for it.)

But it is awfully convenient for the Democratic Party that publications such as Politico have decided that “Trump is the main character of 2022,” and not, say, the current president of the United States, or House speaker Nancy Pelosi, or Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer — you know, the people who have actually been running the government and shaping U.S. domestic and foreign policy for the past two years. 

A week ago, Biden declared that, “Folks, when it comes to the next Congress, this isn’t a referendum, it’s a choice.” It’s obvious that Biden doesn’t want the midterm elections to be a referendum on his performance. As no less a figure than Jen Psaki declared on Meet the Press a few weeks ago, “ If it is a referendum on the president, [Democrats] will lose. And they know that.” 

Politico goes right up to the line of contending that the midterms are actually a referendum on the performance of former president Trump . . . again, which would make them the fourth consecutive national election cycle that was a de facto question: “What do you think of Trump?”

I suspect that a lot of mainstream-media reporters either A) really enjoy writing the latest version of “Republicans stink” or B) know their established audience is hungriest for the latest version of “Republicans stink” stories. A lot of people wake up with the attitude of, “I know my side is right; tell me why my side is right today.”

That’s why on any given day, you will see a lot of coverage of Trump, his family members, who’s rising and who’s falling in his inner circle, whatever crazy conspiracy theory Mike Lindell is talking up today, the latest antics of non-Left celebrities such as Elon Musk and Kanye West, with a healthy dose of “You won’t believe what Tucker Carlson just said” mixed in.

You notice that none of these people are currently in elected office.

I suppose someone could argue that the Right does this too, and no doubt over the past two years, I’ve written a lot more, and a lot more critically, about Biden, Harris, Pelosi, Schumer, “Prime Minister” Ron Klain, etc. But Biden, Harris, Pelosi, Schumer etc. are currently running the country.

I think Marjorie Taylor Greene is over-covered — she’s not even on any committees! — but at least she’s currently a member of Congress. If you want to argue about what governors such as Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott or Brian Kemp are doing, fine — they’re actually setting policy at the state level.

A bit more than a decade ago, CNN’s Jake Tapper reviewed Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom for The New Republic, and he had a sharp, illuminating observation about what Sorkin thought the media was supposed to do:

And what are the important issues “News Night” covers instead of the piffle of Faisal Shahzad, a homegrown terrorist funded and trained by the Pakistani Taliban? McAvoy instead devotes at least a week of his broadcast to showcasing what a horribly inept and dangerous bunch Tea Party Republicans are as they — gasp! — defeat establishment Republicans in free and fair primaries and elections. It’s all well and good to follow the Koch brothers’ money, but at a time when Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, it’s telling that McAvoy and Sorkin aim their sights at conservatives seeking power — not moderates and liberals wielding it.

A lot of members of the mainstream media are much more interested in watching the watchdog for flaws or controversies than joining the watchdog in watching the powerful. This is why we get so many stories about Republicans “pouncing” on a Democratic controversy, instead of the actual Democratic controversy. And this is how a major publication such as Politico can look at a country the day after inflation is at 8.2 percent, with waves of migrants at the border, a gallon of unleaded gasoline averaging $3.90 nationally, violent crime rising in major cities, and school children’s test scores plummeting, and conclude that, “The big story of this year’s midterm elections is Donald Trump.”

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