9 Feb 2016

‘I can’t thank you enough, Mr Trump’

It was hearing an American TV anchor in a massive studio complex in New Hampshire wrap up an interview with Donald Trump with the words “I can’t thank you enough, Mr Trump” that made me wonder what role deference has played in easing Donald Trump’s journey to the heights of the zeitgeist.


At what point did it become more important to get Donald Trump on your show, and be thankful for it, than demanding he deliver any answers, or any substance?  How was it that he was able in Iowa to withdraw from a debate that threatened actual interrogation of his attitudes and policies and somehow transform that into an act of standing up for your rights?

If Donald Trump wins the New Hampshire primary, layers of smugness will settle around him like a protective carapace.  He will have transformed himself into the winner he always promised, and all questioning of him henceforth will be rendered ever more unnecessary and futile.

There was a moment missed, somewhere between laughing at him, and finally being forced to take him seriously.  Perhaps it was the baying of his supporters at the media, encouraged by the real estate mogul, that cowed the organisations upon which America depends for its information.

He phones in his interviews and trades on the whiff of ratings, celebrity and wealth.  Like a Berlusconi, or a Thaksin Shinawatra, he promises his followers a fast track to the better life their country, by his narrative, has denied them.

There is no undoing the reality of their anger, their sense of disconnection, of betrayal.  White working- class Americans have not done well, even as others around them have seen their lives gradually improve.  The establishment, it seems, understood that enough to fan the fury, blaming Washington DC, or the liberal conspiracy, or the mainstream media.  Now they too are learning to imagine how they might work with President Trump.

The outcome of all of this is that the candidate New Hampshire may catapult into the lead at this early stage is untested.  For all the minutes he’s spent on air, all the hours he’s spent at the podium selling his pitch for President, it’s very rare a question lands, and is addressed.

He delivers diktats – build a wall, lock out Muslims – creates a reaction, and then burnishes that into another headline, another appearance, another vote-grabbing almost-policy.

And if America’s media still can’t thank him enough just for turning up, that seems unlikely to change.

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