As liberals excoriate themselves over their loss to Donald Trump, the hunt for answers will invariably lead toward the well-trodden path of looking outward for blame and inward for responsibility. The process will be marked by identifying those conservatives who supported the notionally-indefensible while hand-ringing and self-deprecating over their own missed opportunity to carry the liberal message effectively to voters.
But that process will miss its mark – as badly as the liberal cause did when putting up Clinton for election. It is a process that is as redolent with patronisation as is the very quest itself to place Clinton in the White House. The liberals didn’t fail to sell their message, it’s that they didn’t have a message to peddle. The electorate didn’t fail to engage with Clinton, it’s that she wasn’t engaged with them. The American voting population didn’t sell-out on the liberal ideology and promise of America – it sold-out on them. And all of that was put in motion many years before now.
The failure of the media to identify and call out for what it was, the nefarious “WMD” argument of the Bush era lead, inexorably toward the civil war within the media that has resulted in two polarised wings: the “conventional media” vs “social media” or whatever the latter calls itself from time-to-time. Those two camps are now as polarised as the political parties that they are notionally attached to.
Saying as much doesn’t take into account the fact that any traversal of social media (particularly Twitter) reveals a significant amount of liberal, left or otherwise social-leaning commentary. Yet those people are the opposition in the non-conventional media war. They are the people calling out the turkey arguments and nong-headed misguided, ill-informed treatises of the right wing. Or so they hope to be. Yet where is their help and support in liberal circuits? It takes the form of like-pages and landing pages designed to have you say “#I’mWithHer” or other trivialities that are as polarising in their statement as they are useless as a policy argument.
The fact is that the media civil war – in which it turned in on itself from a place of great regret that it failed to hold a government to account – has lead to the disempowerment of the media to have a valid contribution within an electorate. Those that thought of the fourth estate as the bastion for reasoned and principled argument forgot that to be a protagonist in such a discourse, you must have credit in the minds of the audience – otherwise you’re just an erstwhile antagonist. Antagonists can easily be dispensed with as “elites”, “entitled”, or “egoist” – all words that point to not only the lack of credit of the liberal media but also the nascent hatred by conservative media of those that engage with their core statements.
Therein lies the greatest problem moving forward – conservatives did not shy away from the WMD misnomer or lie, they doubled-down on it. In doing so, the most awful truth was revealed – “post-truth” isn’t a word that refers to the obvious tendency of Trump to lie. It reveals that the world we live in is now one in which arguing for truth and holding lies to account, will not amount to anything meaningful in the town square. Unfortunately for us all, that’s how guillotines get built – because you can fix problems by chopping off heads. Or threatening, cajoling or otherwise bullying the elites.