Cable News and Co.: Please Do Not Show Trump’s Face After Jan. 20

The 2020 presidential election is definitely one for the history books. The countless articles of conflicting information, with one side basing their arguments on utter nonsense, has made reading about the transfer of power a nonsensical nightmare. You could turn on MSNBC and see a world where Joe Biden’s victory is a foregone conclusion. These assertions are in stark contrast to Fox News and other right-wing media that, until very recently, have presented the transition effort as a ploy by the Democrats. 

Take Donald Trump retweeting a video of Fox News host Laura Ingraham presenting arguments against Democratic Party policies three days after the race was called for the Biden/Harris campaign. This video got 14 million views on Twitter, 17 days before #BidenCheated was trending with many conservatives making baseless claims about organized voter fraud. This display by right-wing media makes it look like the campaign season is still ongoing and Donald Trump has a legitimate claim to a second term.

Many of these claims are pedaled by fringe actors and get little serious attention from reputable news sources. That said, it was not long ago that Fox News pundits acted as if these claims were legitimate, and the channel still regularly features – and platforms – people who make ridiculously false assertions regarding voter fraud and illegal voting with little to no push-back. Questioning the legitimacy of the election results is to be expected from right-wing media, and this problem is not present in more centrist to liberal media outlets. But, even liberal media is not completely admonished from criticism. 

Media sources benefited from his horrific display of American machismo, since people who loved him and loathed him alike tuned in to see the latest updates from the Oval Office.

Months before the 2016 presidential election, Jeff Zucker, President of CNN, said, “if we made any mistake last year, it’s that we probably did put too many of [Trump’s] campaign rallies in those early months and let them run.” His charismatic delivery and deeply troubling, though intriguing, language along with this advantage in coverage allowed then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to dominate the media airspace in a way very few candidates are able to achieve. This platform was unique to Trump, making him pervade all political discourse since there was seemingly no issue or scandal that didn’t involve him somehow. 

Continuing to flood the media with story after story of ridiculous antics to keep his name in the headlines was how Trump operated as president as well. Media sources benefited from his horrific display of American machismo, since people who loved him and loathed him alike tuned in to see the latest updates from the Oval Office. His bid for a second term has turned to multiple approaches, through fraught legal pursuits; flooding social media platforms with disinformation; and refusing to concede and begin a transition of power as traditionally done by every president before him. 

I do not think that Trump will stop screaming from the rooftops about election fraud and Democrats stealing this election. I think that there will be a very vocal, and possibly violent, section of the American voting populace that will feel the same way. Things could settle down once Joe Biden takes the inaugural oath, but that won’t stop Trump or his goons from continuing to pedal baseless conspiracies. Not to mention, Donald Trump will continue to be the face of the Republican Party until someone as charismatic, racist, and fascistic takes his place. There has been talk of “Trump TV,” where the soon-to-be former president will likely carry out his usual Trump-y performance and keep his supporters, and conservatives in general, hooked.

Joe Biden’s first term will be very difficult to manage, since Trump will likely break the longstanding expectation that former-presidents stay relatively silent on political matters. Biden will have to deal with a very divided country, and his “no red states or blue states, but the United States” rhetoric does not truly address the very real divide between the political left and right, as well as within the two parties. The toxic environment gives a lot of room for Donald Trump to be vocal and point out how and where Joe Biden slips up. The degree to which this message is able to resonate with folks and get people to act is solely based on how much media attention Donald Trump gets after he leaves office.

Cable news and other media conglomerates benefit from a vocal Donald Trump, since he gets them clicks and ratings. Given the profitability of Trump post-Jan. 20, I am afraid that networks and large newspapers could continue to cover the former president and platform him. Donald Trump without a microphone is just another angry bigot with too much to say. Give him the ability to rally people behind him when Joe Biden inevitably falls short, and we could see the continuation, and possibly a successful renewal, of Trumpism.