The Continuing Maligning of Conservative Trump Critics
Conservative Trump critics took quite a bit of heat from the pro-Trump media (and their audiences) throughout the election. People like me, who were vocal in our dissent and our decision not to vote for Trump, had our motivations and intentions perverted on an almost daily basis. We were called liberals, elitists, and traitors, and were told that our principled stance had been bought and paid for by "the establishment." One popular radio host even went as far saying that by not supporting Trump, we were supporting partial-birth abortion.
It was all very ugly, but because Trump ended up winning the election, I wasn't expecting much in the way of regret or introspection from these people; they got their victory, and I'm sure that in their view, the maligning of former allies was a small price to pay.
What I was expecting, however, was for the tribal assault on conservatives to dwindle down and eventually die. After all, the Republican party is now in a good position to get some things done in Washington, and President-elect Trump has even satisfied the conservative base with the majority of his cabinet picks. There's an opportunity to mend some fences, but unfortunately, the pro-Trump media seems hell-bent on going more rounds with those who haven't pledged unconditional allegiance to the party's leader.
On Wednesday, Rachael Bade wrote an interesting column for The Politico with the headline, "Trump posse browbeats Hill Republicans." The piece describes how Rep. Bill Flores, a Texas Republican, came under attack earlier this month by the pro-Trump media for simply stating that some of the president-elect's proposals "are not going to line up very well" with the GOP Congress's conservative policies. Despite quickly adding that there were several areas of common ground from which they could all work to accomplish things, Flores was raked over the coals by who Bade refers to as "Trump's throng of enforcers."
Breitbart framed Flores's remark as an "outline" of "the GOP leadership's strategy to isolate and block" Trump's campaign promises. Amy Moreno of Truthfeed posted the headline, "BREAKING: Rep. Bill Flores Has CRAFTED a PLAN to BLOCK Trump’s Immigration Reform.” Sean Hannity promoted the Breitbart report on his radio show, and insisted that Flores's words were the GOP establishment's way of telling Trump to "go to hell." All of this fueled an anti-Flores social media frenzy that included Twitter death-wishes.
According to Rep. Mark Sanford, who's quoted in the column, there's a genuine fear among Republicans in congress that the moment they voice public dissent against the incoming president's ideas, they will come under heavy fire by Trump's most influential media supporters.
The Washington Post's Paul Waldman made a solid point in his own column on the topic later that day:
"It’s awfully handy that the administration has Breitbart at its disposal, an influential (at least within the right) media outlet that can not only echo the White House line but also target dissenters for retaliation, supported by an army of online enforcers standing ready to take anyone who strays and make his or her life miserable."
But again, it's not just Breitbart...and the targets aren't just skeptical Republican politicians. Over the past few weeks, there's been a concerted effort by Pro-Trump pundits (including Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Eric Bolling) to lump NeverTrump Republicans and conservatives in with those who have been questioning and challenging the legitimacy of Trump's win. Ingraham even wrote a piece that appeared on FoxNews.com, calling for NeverTrumpers to "let it go," now the "'Electoral College will revolt against Trump' fantasy is officially dead."
Glaring in their omission have been actual examples of NeverTrump righties who have been calling into question the legitimacy of Trump's win. Who are these nameless individuals that need to "let it go"?
As someone who is very tuned into the NeverTrump crowd (I was part of it, after all) and Trump's most vocal conservative critics, I have yet to see an instance of any of these people even implying that Trump's win wasn't valid. In fact, I've seen just the opposite. They've been joining Trump supporters in mocking the sad efforts of liberals to change the outcome of the November election.
So what's with this straw man created by the pro-Trump media? Why are they purposely misrepresenting people on their side of the aisle?
It seems to me that there is indeed a delegitimization campaign in the works, but it's not against Donald Trump. It's against those on the Right who have demonstrated a willingness to stand up to Trump.
The president-elect won't be sworn in for another month, but the discrediting of internal opposition appears to have already begun...in the form of a preemptive strike. As was hinted at with Bill Flores, bullying Trump skeptics and independent thinkers into conformity may just be the new mission of the incoming president's media loyalists.
If that ends up being the case, expect our political discourse, the state of the media, and our capacity to solve problems to only worsen in 2017.