Media's NeverTrump Voices Drown Out Republican Perspective
Over the weekend, Washington Post columnist Max Boot had a novel take on President Trump’s impeachment. According to Boot, what Trump said on the phone call with Ukraine’s president was in some ways worse than Andrew Jackson’s forced relocation of Native Americans or FDR’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“Other presidents — from Andrew Jackson with the Trail of Tears during the 1830s, to Franklin D. Roosevelt with the internment of U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II — have trampled our values, but they always had a public purpose and usually had congressional support,” Boot wrote.
Either Boot or someone at the Post came to their senses, because the sentence was later amended (stealth-edited) to clarify that Native American genocide and racist imprisonment were “far worse things” than Donald Trump’s alleged misdeeds. But by then, Boot was already being roasted on social media.
There are many more examples of open mouth, insert Boot. Back in October, after the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump said the terrorist was “whimpering and crying” at the end of his life. Boot couldn’t let stand this defaming of the world’s most prominent practitioner of sex slavery and beheadings. He retorted in his column, “The assertion that Baghdadi died as a coward was contradicted by the fact that rather than be captured, he blew himself up.” (For what it’s worth, Baghdadi killed three children when he detonated his suicide vest, and once again, Boot’s column was edited ex Post facto.) Trump supporters scouring Boot’s Twitter feed will find a riches of embarrassment, e.g., his contentions that “The Steele Dossier is way more credible than the Nunes memo” and that Nixon was impeached.
Before his obsessive opposition to Trump erased any sense of perspective, Boot was an impressive author and journalist. However, his recent output makes one genuinely wonder what he did to earn such a coveted gig at The Washington Post. The answer appears to be that Max Boot is NeverTrump. Indeed, Boot’s rise from respected-but-marginalized neocon to the forefront of political commentary neatly dovetails with his opposition to Donald Trump.
Outside of the Beltway, Republicans and conservatives steadfastly opposed to Trump are a small minority – more than 90% of Republicans approve of the president. Yet, judging by the column inches and TV appearances being doled out, NeverTrump Republicans might be the most overrepresented demographic in America.
Nearly 63 million Americans voted for the man, and it’s an indictment of the media that they are unwilling or unable to find anyone who speaks for them.
Aside from Max Boot, the Post’s roster includes Jennifer Rubin, who’s another special case. Rubin’s Twitter bio still proudly declares her to be a “conservative opinion writer at @WashingtonPost.” For a time, this was true. During the previous administration, Rubin wrote tens of thousands of words opposing President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and his decision to enter into the Paris climate change accords, while also urging the United States to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Trump pulled out of the Iran deal and the Paris accords and finally moved the embassy, but when Trump adopted positions Rubin previously supported, she reversed herself.
There are now not one, but two apparently well-funded publications on the right dedicated to NeverTrump Republican politics. Bill Kristol’s The Bulwark is an oft-splenetic outlet for Trump criticism. The Dispatch is more measured in its criticisms, but it, too, is NeverTrump. Both of The New York Times’s regular conservative columnists, David Brooks and Ross Douthat, opposed Trump’s candidacy, and to some extent oppose him now. Right-leaning academics who are anti-Trump such as Tom Nichols – who has had a seriously impressive number of bylines in the last four years – are in high demand.
To the extent that MSNBC’s and CNN’s rosters include any supposed conservatives, they are heavy on NeverTrump voices such as the aforementioned Jennifer Rubin, former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt, Ana Navarro, and political consultant Rick Wilson, whose hillbilly Hunter Thompson shtick may be doing the anti-Trump cause more harm than good based on his recent CNN appearance. MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell recently went on former Sen. Al Franken’s podcast and bragged that his news channel didn’t offer any pro-Trump perspective, despite no shortage of self-described Republicans who regularly appear there. Even Fox News, which is routinely maligned as being a Trump sycophant, regularly has The Dispatch’s Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg on the panel of its flagship news program, “Special Report.”
Not all NeverTrump voices are entirely in the throes of late-stage Trump Derangement Syndrome; some certainly make worthy contributions. The Dispatch’s David French, also a columnist for Time, may be resolutely against Trump but he’s still an important and reliable advocate for conservative issues such as religious liberty in ways that are agreeable to Trump voters. Despite employing Boot and Rubin, the Post offers a few columnists, including Henry Olsen and Marc Thiessen, who are often pro-Trump in thoughtful ways. Brooks and Douthat, despite their opposition to Trump, also frequently elucidate positions agreeable to the few remaining Trump voters who read the New York Times.
Further, a few prominent NeverTrumpers such as Nichols and, to his credit, Boot, have been honorable enough to announce that they are voting for Democrats or have left the Republican Party altogether. (Although Boot keeps writing the same column about why he won’t vote for Republicans, this declaration lost its resonance after he wrote a book about no longer being conservative.)
In the end, it’s hard to deny there’s a disproportionate emphasis on NeverTrump opinion in the media. Far from discrediting Trump, this is likely emboldening a president who thrives on using the media as a foil. Readers aren’t stupid, and the embrace of NeverTrump at the expense of voices that actually represent Republican voters continues to send the message that the media are acting in bad faith to the half of the country that already distrusts the media, and did so long before Trump capitalized on their anger.