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Reblogged:Trump Plays the Media Again: The Long View

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Some sleep-deprived thoughts about a farcical news story...

"Hugh Akston?" she stammered. "The philosopher? ... The last of the advocates of reason?"

"Why, yes," he answered pleasantly. "Or the first of their return."
-- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, p. 308.

NBC's recent story is borderline hilarious when one momentarily suspends the context of severe cultural rot and political danger it represents. It even has its punchline as its title: "Trump criticizes Republicans pushing abortion bans with no exceptions: 'You're not going to win'."

That's right: The man who angered or annoyed so many Americans that he lost the presidency despite toting up history's second-highest popular vote total is advising his party to moderate its stance on that losing issue -- while refusing to step aside in favor of a more electable candidate.

To be fair, though, Biden could well be the one person running who could get Trump elected again...

And with in-kind media campaign donations like this story, I wouldn't bet against it.

Here's Trump, playing the media like a fiddle, on Meet the Press:
Trump said members of his own party "speak very inarticulately about [abortion]."

"I watch some of them without the exceptions, etc., etc.," he said, referring to conservatives who don't support abortion exceptions in cases including abortion and rape. "I said: 'Other than certain parts of the country, you can't -- you're not going to win on this issue. But you will win on this issue when you come up with the right number of weeks.
Aside from the already-noted irony of Trump coaching his party on how not to lose elections, Trump is to blame for overturning Roe vs. Wade.

The piece goes on about this at some length:
President Joe Biden's campaign fired back at his remarks shortly after the interview, painting him as "the reason" the issue has taken center stage in the past year.

"In Donald Trump's own words: he is the reason states across the country are able to ban abortion and are putting women's lives in danger," Ammar Moussa, a Biden campaign spokesperson, said in a statement. "He's repeatedly bragged that 'nobody has ever done more' for abortion bans, and it was 'an honor' to have appointed the justices who eliminated Roe v. Wade.

"Now, facing an election where he has to defend his deeply unpopular actions, he refuses to give Kristen Welker the honest answer on his support for banning abortion nationwide...
Good response, but this came only after Trump -- with the free platform given to him by the media -- got to pretend to be the voice of reason in a debate that he got to pretend he didn't reignite, and that he got to pretend just needs someone to broker a good deal.

Trump's base will eat this up and everyone knows this, including the interviewer, who should know by now not to expect a straight answer from Trump about anything.

It is hard here to apply the maxim of not attributing to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity: This will only solidify his support in the primary and make it hard for any alternative to develop enough of a following to cause the others to drop out. The resulting large field persists and splinters Trump's opposition, which could defeat him behind one candidate.

Politically, this is terrible news for the Republican Party and for America, because it makes the Trump-Biden match-up 70% of Americans don't want all but inevitable.

It is also bad culturally: Most people don't have the understanding of how philosophy drives history that Ayn Rand teaches. Cultural change happens one mind at a time, and has to reach a critical mass before the politics follows. In this analysis, politicians are the end result, not the drivers of a debate.

But that doesn't mean politicians can't impede cultural change. Obviously, dictators can, but so can candidates in a declining republic.

Trump's dismissal of both facts (in the form of not admitting his role in the abortion debate) and principles (in the form of treating this debate as if it's as mundane as a group choosing where to go to lunch) -- and the knowledge that his personality cult will buy it hook, line, and sinker -- will demoralize many lower-level intellectuals on the right.

This demoralization can manifest as some giving up altogether, because they think that there is no audience for serious debate. It can give others either the excuse to join in because they are cynical or self-censor themselves, "going along to get along" just to keep an audience in the hopes of having some influence on some issue.

Bastiat (Image by unknown artist, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)
All of these are understandable, but mistaken reactions. News media, particularly television, is a poster-child for applying Frederic Bastiat's "broken window" parable more widely than economics. We see the crowds who show up to worship Donald Trump -- but not vastly larger number of people who hate/are tired of/never liked him.

We also don't see the large numbers of people who want abortion to be legal, at least early in a pregnancy. We do get to hear Trump rightly name abortion as a losing issue and wrongly tout himself as a solution.

I didn't see the interview, but I bet it was a softball and the interviewer didn't really challenge any of that in the moment. Even if I'm wrong, television does not lend itself to deep discussion, such as what the abortion debate demands, or to developing a full historical context, such as what Trump's slick answers deserved: That's why so many people dismiss it, often rightly, as sound bites coming from talking heads. Television, at least as it is usually produced, is a poor medium for serious discussion, so you rarely see serious discussion if that's where you get your news.

(This situation cannot last forever: Best case, the culture improves enough that television itself improves or people become much less reliant on perceptual-level media for news. We should work to realize that best case scenario!)

The conservative movement wasn't exactly a bastion of good, revolutionary ideas before Trump, and it is obviously less so after Trump cowed it into submission. We see this with the legions of mindlessly loyal Trumpists and with the cowing or pandering of such figures as Ben Shapiro or the late Rush Limbaugh to Trump's base.

Such intellectuals at best fail to appreciate the unseen but influential demographic of thoughtful people who would be receptive to a good alternative, if only someone would present one. There are people who can change their minds over time, and who will, in turn provide a basis for a better political climate in America.

The process takes a long time, on both the retail level (of persuading individuals) and the wholesale level (of holding elections about substantial issues again). This is the context that real, positive change requires, and persuasion about ideas important to liberty is the opportunity anyone blindly panicking about "the seen" forfeits.

-- CAV

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