This presidential candidate’s campaign frequently packs sports arenas with tens of thousands of adoring fans. His supporters find him faultless, and defend him with the reverence of a deity. The media is obsessed with him and constantly keeps his name in the headlines, while writing takeaways such as, “charisma is more than a way with words…it's about inspiring America to greatness again.” Even his political opponents, who question his untested leadership in politics, air attack ads describing him as the “the biggest celebrity in the world.” Donald Trump 2016? Nope. Barack Obama 2008; though, it just as easily describes the current campaign of Donald Trump.
Both men, as candidates for president, were objectively untested and inexperienced political “outsiders.” Both rocketed to celebrity status; fueled by the media’s obsession with their every move, and by legions of supporters who dismissed any criticism of their beloved leader as unfair attacks from a frightened establishment. Yet, while conservatives eight years ago decried Obama’s celebrity status as unfairly insulating him from a proper political vetting, many of those same conservatives now defend that immunity from scrutiny as it benefits Trump.
Understandably, Trump’s supporters would argue he has not enjoyed the same idolatry in the press as Obama did in 2008, and that’s somewhat true. Trump has certainly not consistently been a media favorite in terms of likeability; but his antics and antagonism, orchestrated always for maximum attention, have allowed Trump to dominate in media coverage. This coverage has been reduced largely to a tabloid-style run-down of his latest offensive comment, or how protestors were roughed-up at a rally. Where Trump actively stands on issues important to conservatives has gone largely without “a proper vetting,” or remain mysteries entirely untapped.
This shoddy coverage also is reflected in how media outlets have conducted the debates. Rather than an extensive back-and-forth on important substantive issues, moderators consistently opt for the easy lobs designed first and foremost to goad the other Republican candidates into sparring with Trump.
The consequence of this skewed coverage extends far beyond this election cycle; and threatens to undo years of progress within the GOP to push the party back in direction of limited government.
For example, a Google search for details on Donald Trump’s position on the waste and abuse in the Transportation Security Administration, reveals no definitive statement on an issue that has been the scourge of civil liberties advocates on the right for more than decade. After being established in 2001 by a Republican Congress as a knee-jerk reaction to the 9/11 terror attacks, other Republicans, led recently by members such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, have been working to limit the TSA’s authority (and budget). This effort, which can be seen as a litmus test for whether Republicans believe in any limits on federal power in the name of “national security,” has foundered in Congress as another issue lost in the current campaign circus surrounding Trump.
The same can be said for the vital question of tax reform. The two prevailing philosophies in the GOP for tax reform are a single flat tax, and the so-called “FairTax,” which would replace the current progressive income tax with a national sales tax. Yet, how many voters, and even Trump supporters, know that Trump’s vision for “tax reform” still leaves the progressive income tax in place, and with it, the IRS? Not many; especially when the media prefers to focus on whether Mitt Romney can pressure Trump into releasing his personal tax returns, rather than on why Trump believes a progressive tax is better than the alternatives conservatives have advocated for decades.
Also ignored are other key substantive issues, such as IRS tax abuse rampant during the Lois Lerner era; or why income-earners under a certain amount would be given “a new one page form to send the IRS saying, ‘I win’” (this should indicate the lack of seriousness with which Trump heirs on tax reform), while other productive Americans would still have to pay up to 25 percent of their income to Uncle Sam.
Perhaps the most infuriating issue yet to be afforded coverage in the presidential contest because of the Trump/mainstream media love-fest, is that of criminal justice reform. Republicans in Congress have been working with Democrats in an incredibly rare display of bipartisanship in support of a sweeping reform of the criminal justice process that would save billions of taxpayer dollars, even as it would restore civil rights in the criminal justice process. Unfortunately, Republican presidential candidates have barely touched on the issue, and the media has yet to do so. Instead of pressing candidates on how they would respond to such an historic measure, or even the merits of criminal justice reform, the closest we get to a debate on the topic is when “Black Lives Matter” protestors storm an event and the media rushes to report on how campaigns react.
With the Trump Circus continuing to parade toward the Republican Convention, we know as much about him on these and myriad other important issues as we did at this point with Obama in 2008; a campaign that resulted in the leader of the free world being vetted only after being elected. America is paying a heavy price for that mistake eight years ago; we cannot afford to do so a second time.