The success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign should come as no surprise to anyone. It has been in the making since the Fairness Doctrine was repealed during the George H.W. Bush administration. That seemingly innocuous decision meant that US broadcast media no longer had to operate in the public interest. No longer held accountable to broadcast the truth, the radio airwaves were quickly dominated by rightwing conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. Within a few years, more than 90 percent of talk radio was devoted to angry, hateful radio hosts telling the public that the government was too big, taxes were too high and liberals were wasting your money. These people treated politics as entertainment – the more hateful and bombastic they became, the higher their ratings.
Seizing on the opportunity that hate radio created, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes created a cable TV version called Fox News Channel. Scarcely trying to disguise its partisanship, Fox became a vocal and very angry arm of the Republican National Committee. Ailes handed out Republican talking points at the beginning of each day, and the on-air hosts repeated them verbatim. Most of the network guests were Republicans, and if Democrats dared to appear on the network in order to correct the record, they were angrily shouted down…a tactic epitomized by a program host who lost custody of his children after grabbing his wife by the throat and dragging her down the stairs.
Fox News helped to create and promote the Tea Party, inflating the numbers of demonstrators while, at the same time, dismissing the racist rhetoric. The network took the side of those who brought guns to the demonstrations and threatened to “exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.” The network ramped up racist remarks surrounding the police killings of unarmed blacks – even that of a 12-year-old boy whose “crime” was playing with a toy gun. It supported virulent anti-government groups, such as those surrounding Cliven Bundy. And for more than 7 years, its program hosts have verbally attacked our president and celebrated the obstruction of his policies and court nominees.
Is it any wonder, then, that the same sort of hateful discourse has now permeated the Republican debates?
Donald Trump and his supporters have simply repeated what the rightwing media have been saying all along. They are immune to facts and the truth. They don’t care about policy discussions. Trump’s political movement is all about emotion – the emotions of anger and hate.
For its part, the Republican Party has reveled in the obstruction and destruction aimed at Democrats. Only now that it has become a very real possibility that Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination and potentially destroy the “Grand Old Party;” only now that the polls have shown that either Democratic candidate could defeat Trump, has the Party establishment become concerned.
But Trump is not the only potential problem. The rhetoric and actions of the other Republican candidates are just as ugly and just as hateful. They all portray an America few people recognize. They all feed off of the anger created and promoted by the media. They all act as if the political campaign is little more than a made-for-TV reality show with all of the substance and thoughtfulness of Honey Boo-Boo. And though such candidates are good for network ratings, any of them would be disastrous for the future of our nation and the world, if for no other reason than the fact that none of them recognize the impending disaster otherwise known as climate change.
We can only hope that voters repudiate the hate. We should hope that the Republican nominee is defeated in a landslide. Elections should be about policies and leadership. Not about ratings.