The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

President Donald Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric is putting the lives of American journalists at risk, Mother Jones’ Mark Follman reported Thursday, citing comments from law enforcement leaders and top security officials at two major news outlets.

Trump’s years of vicious invective — echoed by his allies at Fox News — are bearing fruit. Reporters are facing a surge in bomb and death threats, organized harassment, online publication of their personal information (“doxxing”), and threatening mail sent to their home addresses, Follman’s sources warn. One security director at a major television news network told Follman that the threats spike when Trump rails against the network by name, with the harassers often using Trump’s “fake news” language, and that they are primarily aimed at journalists who report on the White House and the Trump-Russia probe — the very targets of the president’s ire.

This heightened fear of violence against reporters will certainly continue throughout Trump’s tenure as president. There’s no indication that he will ever stop demonizing journalists — this is a deliberate strategy to discredit them for political gain that he has continued employing even after a man was arrested for threatening to murder reporters while using Trump’s anti-press rhetoric. But there’s reason to fear that even after Trump is no longer president — especially if he wins re-election in 2020 — his party will continue down the same path. Naked, vicious hostility to the press could become a central plank of the Republican Party, turning elevated concerns about potential violence into the new normal.

Trump’s ascension to the Republican presidential nominee was opposed by a broad cross-section of the party’s establishment. But since he became president, that opposition has almost entirely dissipated.

Trump is now the unchallenged leader of his party, with overwhelming approval ratings among the party base. That support makes him a Republican political kingmaker, with the candidates he supports dominating the primary field this year. Meanwhile, candidates are betting that the best way to win their primaries is to mimic the president’s behavior and publicly pledge their loyalty to him. They are donning his caps and adopting his catchphrases. They parrot his authoritarian calls to imprison his political opponents, his racist demagoguery and his attacks on the press.

That process will only accelerate over the next few years as more skeptical establishment Republicans retire, lose primary challenges, or succumb to Democrats, while Trumpist candidates win Republican primaries and ascend the party hierarchy. The longer Trump remains in power, the stronger his grip will be on the future of the Republican Party, as generations of party leaders gain power because of their fidelity to the president and their willingness to ape his conduct.

That Trumpening of the Republican Party has implications for partisan politics writ large, not least with regard to the way Republicans treat journalists. Conservatives have for decades been trying to work the refs by smearing the media with the “liberal bias” canard. Trump’s campaign builds on that foundation, but his invective is different in tenor, type, and frequency — a constant drumbeat tarring journalists with Stalinist “enemy of the people” invective. Polling shows that the president’s attacks have warped the Republican base, with a majority now agreeing with that charge.

The base is following the president, and other Republican politicians are following the base. Trump’s staunchest congressional allies and candidates who hope to join them respond to critical coverage by wielding his talking points against the press. Those criticisms are becoming ever more central to their political campaigns: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), a leading Trump confederate, released a two-minute ad this summer targeting his district’s leading newspaper as a “fake news” outlet that “work[s] closely with radical left-wing groups.”

Even Republicans who were once harshly critical of Trump, like his former primary opponent, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), have seen which way the wind is blowing and responded in kind. “Many Republicans won’t criticize Trump even when they don’t agree with him b/c it means siding with a media that nevers cuts him a break, turns even little things he does into an act of evil,are also unfair to them & in the end will still attack you anyway,” he tweeted in June.

The party leaders most willing to call out the president’s rhetoric are on their way out of power. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor earlier this year to decry his “assault” on the media as “unprecedented” and “unwarranted.” But that was months after he announced that he would resign at the end of his term, a tacit acknowledgment that his willingness to criticize Trump made it impossible to win his party’s nomination in the current era.

The future of the Republican Party is echoing Trump’s attacks on the press. Only members of its past are willing to speak out against that strategy. And if his party continues to succeed, it will show them that fixating on journalists as the “enemy of the people” is a viable path forward.

Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

New Poll Reveals Problems For Trump--And His Party

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump Testifying To January ^ Committee Is Vital

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is the focus of a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}