It’s funny to watch talking heads on television news ponder why Donald Trump enjoys apparent popular support, even while making controversial comments that draw criticism from across the political spectrum.
The first reaction of Attorney General Loretta Lynch after the recent San Bernardino terrorist attack was to warn the country about Islamophobia. Her implicit message to the families of the dead was not that the government missed a terrorist cadre or let Islamic State sympathizers carry out a massacre. Instead, she worried more about Americans being angry at the inability of the tight-knit Muslim community to ferret out the extremists in its midst…
The government reports that a record 94.4 million Americans are not in the labor force. That is almost a third of the country. How can the same government declare that the official unemployment rate is only 5 percent?
Aside from a government so obviously unmoored from reality, most people watch a 24-hour cable news media where facts are equally alien. Consider that in the 16 hours after the San Bernardino shooting, early Twitter-fueled reports the attack on misguided anti-Planned Parenthood activists, white supremecists, and a workplace dispute, before the facts actually came out. The need for speed has surpassed the need for accuracy.
There’s also a willful tone-deafness to opposing views which creates distrust. Megan McArdle got it right in a column about the public discussion about Syrian refugees that sprang up right after the Paris attacks. McArdle, who supports taking in more refugees, had plenty of criticism for the holier-than-thou voices from her own side of the argument:
Perfectly reasonable people are worried that a small number of terrorists could pretend to be refugees in order to get into the U.S. for an attack. One response to these reasonable people has been: “How dare you say people fleeing terrorism are terrorists!” This is deeply silly. Obama administration officials have admitted that they can’t be sure of screening terrorists out from asylum seekers.
As a result, media and politicians wringing their hands over Trump lack any moral authority to do so. It’s no wonder negative news stories and condemnations from his oppoenents don’t affect this guy’s polling numbers.
(Sidebar: There’s also the whole question about whether the poll numbers translate into a viable campaign. Some media outles have started asking those questions now. Why now? Why wasn’t that considered relevant four months ago?)