Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times titled his last week’s column rather ominously:
Democrats beware: Donald Trump is finding success well outside the Republican fringe
Of course, the title is more clickbait than anything else. It tells us nothing we don’t already know: Trump is rounding up lots of independent voters, lots of people who have never engaged in the political process before, and that lots of rank-and-file Republicans are still likely to vote for him in November, however begrudgingly, to keep Clinton out of the White House. And though I don’t much care for anecdotal evidence, this part did surprise me probably more than it should have:
“He’s saying a lot of things that we’re thinking,” said Gil Brown, 54, an African American businessman from Lakeland. “It’s so refreshing to hear somebody say things clearly.”
(Brown said he wasn’t worried about Trump’s views on race. “I’ve been on the receiving end of racism. I know what it’s like,” he said. “I’m not hearing it from him.”)
Okay. I’m a white guy, so I don’t experience racism the way Brown does; I’m an observer, not a receiver. Still, I’m curious whether Brown knows about Trump’s initial reluctance to denounce David Duke’s endorsement on television, or about the black protesters at Trump rallies that Trump supporters manhandle. And if he does, I wonder what his reaction to things like that are—does he buy the excuse that Trump’s earpiece wasn’t working, or that those protesters got what they deserved? What does he make of Trump’s comments regarding Mexican immigrants?
I ask this for a few reasons. One is that people on Twitter or people who leave comments in comments sections on news sites either express support for whatever Trump says and does or denounces media criticism as being biased; they either like what he says or, if they don’t, claim the media is conspiring against him.
Another is anecdotal (which, like I said, I hate). I was at dinner last night and Trump inevitably came up in conversation. Everyone agreed that they despised him, and they spoke confidently about why he will or won’t succeed. But it became very clear to me very quickly that they weren’t as tuned in to political minutiae the way I am (for better or worse) because they were unaware of many things he’s said, and these are people who consider themselves well-informed—at least more well-informed than Trump supporters.
I bring this up because it feeds my suspicion about a lot of media talk around Trump. There was a time when pundits believed his comments about Megyn Kelly or John McCain were sure to tank his campaign, and they obviously didn’t. That’s because the people who were tuned in and supported him either A) agreed, or B) could excuse his behavior by blaming the media. The rest of his supporters? I don’t think they pay attention all that much to the 24/7 news cycle, the same way a lot of Rubio or Cruz or Kasich supporters probably don’t. Sure, they see stuff online, and they have the TV switched to Fox or CNN on occasion, but a lot of people just aren’t all that in-the-know.
None of this is revelatory in the same way McManus’s piece isn’t. But it’s worth saying.