You can always tell whether or not Donald Trump is effective by observing the media reaction to whatever it is he did. When Trump lays an egg, pundits will immediately assume that smug, I-told-you-so demeanor as they discuss how the president has a thin skin, spends too much time on Twitter, and doesn’t know how to govern. On the other hand, when Trump hits a home run–well, let’s just say that having their cognitive dissonance smashed and their confirmation bias turned inside-out can turn the media into a cornered beast, and that makes for some mighty fine television.
Take MSNBC, for example. During a panel last night after Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress, Rachel Maddow and Eric Schmidt had some pretty harsh words to say–but not about who you might expect:
“The Democratic Party is at its lowest point of power in this country since the 1920s, and the response was made by a 72-year-old retired two-term governor of Kentucky, not by Kamala Harris, not by Kirsten Gillibrand, not by the Castro brothers, not by anyone who has a future in the actual Democratic Party,” said Schmidt, an MSNBC political analyst.
“Just amazing ineptitude for a party out of power like the Democrats are,” he continued. “On the personal note, I do wish the hostages behind him well.”
Rowr, MSNBC! And they weren’t the only ones. It didn’t take too long after the speech to find stuff like this in my Twitter timeline:
I love my Democrats but really — we couldn't find more young, Black or brown people to sit behind Gov. Beshear? #DemResponse
— Jamal Simmons (@JamalSimmons) March 1, 2017
To which even Kirsten Powers responded:
So, basically, the Democrat Party is old, white and dead. And this is coming from liberals! I take back what I said about a home run. With this much wailing, Trump must’ve hit a grand slam.
As to the response itself, I’d personally be more inclined to cut poor Steve Beshear some slack. He was just the delivery man, and quite frankly he didn’t know what to expect. If Trump had come off as arrogant and blustery, perhaps the message Beshear tried to convey wouldn’t have landed with such a resounding thud. As it was, he was given a thankless task: trying to convince working class white voters that the Democrats kinda-sorta still care about them–a ham-handed attempt made painfully obvious because, as Jamal Simmons observed, there were no black and brown faces there.
And that’s where the Democrats had their big fail. They’ve spent so long staring at politics through a racial lens that they’ve forgotten how to connect with those same white working class voters on a human level. Until they get that figured out, any attempt to make inroads with them will seem forced and artificial.
Which means we’ll probably be seeing a lot more panels like the one on MSNBC last night.