It has been an interesting day to watch American cable news. Commentators, pundits and journalists just can’t stop repeating themselves.
The overall theme is one of shock and disbelief. Donald Trump is going to be the nominee for president from the Republican Party. They keep asking themselves, how did this happen? I have one answer for them - you - you are the reason.
The other day I was talking to a cable news reporter. He was telling me how insane it is to cover a Trump rally. He, like so many, just couldn’t believe Trump kept winning. I looked at him and said why are you surprised? - you created this phenomenon. Needless to say it got awkward.
For those overseas who just can’t quite grasp how this happened and what it means, I thought I would just give you a brief history of his campaign. When he announced he wanted to be president he did so by giving a rambling speech in which he talked in generalities and insults.
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The man literally called all Mexicans rapists. At the time, most assumed it was a harmless vanity project that would be entertaining but not serious. It was the entertainment factor that in fact made it serious. Every time Donald Trump gave a speech, the three cable networks took it in its entirety.
Every single speech was sent out over the airwaves and it was never followed by fact-checking. It wasn’t just cable; the nightly newscasts gave him exponentially more airtime then almost all of the other candidates combined.
The chairman of a major network CBS was recently quoted as saying: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS."
He runs the network that used to employ Edward R Murrow.
Trump got them ratings and that meant more money. That is why the television networks went to great lengths to get him on air. They often let him phone in to be interviewed. I have never seen that happen before in my lifetime.
The presidential race is pretty much the only thing the cable channels cover. It has been that way for six months and will be until the election. I’m not exaggerating. If you are in the United States and you turn on television news you will hear the election talked about incessantly.
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Given that, you might think these voters are the most well-educated in history, but they aren't. The American media isn’t talking about the issues, but the horse race. If the voters looked to television news to find out where the candidates stand, they would have virtually no idea about their positions.
This has been a primary race on the Republican side of broad generalities and sweeping statements but no real plans. Just to give you one example, during Trump’s major foreign policy speech he promised he would get rid of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) very fast. How, you might ask. He won’t say because it has to be a surprise, but you should trust him.
This fact-free reporting zone probably won't last. If history is any indication, once the nominees are selected, voters and journalists tune in and it gets real. That could happen, but given this election year I’m not making any promises.
I'm also only 90 percent convinced Trump will be the Republican nominee. I know it defies conventional wisdom. The establishment could still try to strip some of his delegates at the convention and on the second vote try to bring in a new candidate.
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There is no consensus among party leaders that this is what they should do. They are now just getting their heads around the fact that Trump is the only one left in their race.
If they stripped him of the nomination they would face a huge backlash from his supporters. It would mean their new nominee for president would be less likely to win. You might be asking why they would even risk it.
If Trump is the nominee they are risking more than the loss of the presidency. They could lose control of the Senate and maybe even the House of Representatives. Trump will be the most disliked person to run for president in the history of modern politics. He has alienated women and minority groups and he can’t win without them.
In a recent poll 40 percent of the Republicans said they wouldn't vote for Trump. They promised to stay home. If that happens Republicans across the board could lose their seats.
I think that realisation is starting to terrify the Republican leadership.
We just saw a statement from the Senior Aide to the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. He said Ryan was withholding his endorsement of Trump, adding that he hopes there’s not a need for a third-party candidate.
I know people think the real drama is either over or going to play out at the convention, but I think the next few weeks will be pivotal. Right now, the sides are lining up. There are the established Republicans who say they have to go with Trump, and those who say they never will.
Whichever side wins, this battle will have far-reaching consequences. It will determine not just the future of the Republican Party but the existence of the two-party system as it now stands.
Source: Al Jazeera