By Tom Allon
Look up the definition of codependent in the dictionary and it indicates an unhealthy relationship between two people that is dysfunctional, leads to abusive behavior, and is just plain-old bad for both parties.
I can’t think of a better word to describe Donald Trump’s budding romance with the media. They really need each other, they make each other act more boorishly and no matter how much they profess to try, they just can’t quit each other.
I also realize that just by writing this column I am falling into the same trap as the rest of the media. But I believe that by looking at this honestly and exploring its destructive nature, we can come up with ways to stop giving Trump—and other demagogues like Ted Cruz—the attention they need to advance.
In fact, I believe that former CNN anchor Campbell Brown had a good idea recently when she implored her former colleagues to ignore Trump for at least one week. I am certain if that happened, the air would start leaking out of his campaign balloon. But, of course, that seems incredibly unlikely, so we need to understand the problem and how it is wrecking our country.
Sure, there are some pundits on MSNBC or writing for the Daily Beast or the editorial pages of the New York Times who detest The Donald and all he stands for. But they still write about and broadcast him 24-7. This unhealthy relationship is having a pernicious effect on our political discourse.
Chris Matthews, the MSNBC talk show host, loudly admonishes Trump on his show and puts down his supporters. He is so outraged! In fact, he is so mad that one night recently he pre-empted his own show and aired a one-hour documentary with warmed-over stories about the most covered man in media history.
That’ll show him.
I’m just waiting for some cynical cable television mogul to introduce a 24-hour Trump television network. Kind of like what’s happened to VH1 with the Kardashians.
In every dark cloud, though, there is a potential silver lining. As Mark Twain once said of himself, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” And so, too, the death of media—one of those self-destructive solipsistic memes we have heard for more than a decade—has been greatly exaggerated because it has found a savior.
But like many false messiahs, the short-term ratings gains made by the media in 2016 will come at far too great a cost: a degeneration into the crass, boorish and sensationalistic. Readers and viewers—many of whom have already fled tabloid newspapers and broadcast media—may wake up in 2017 with such a hangover that they swear never to go near the cable dial again.
You can channel surf all you want on the Sunday morning talk shows, but I guarantee you won’t have a Trump-free five-minute reprieve. He’s catnip for the feline broadcasters who need him. They are preying on a mousy public that keeps on thinking: Will Trump crash and burn this time or will he continue to glide along like a large float in the Thanksgiving Parade that makes him appear larger than life?
I’ve been trying to puzzle over this phenomenon recently and I think I’ve partially figured it out. Politics and policy is generally very predictable stuff. The Dems want more government, more programs to help the needy, more help for the middle class, more equal rights for women, gays, transgenders and all underdog subgroups of our population.
The Republicans, well, they want the opposite of all the above. As Ted Cruz, Trump’s main GOP rival and a modern-day Joe McCarthy, would say: We want people to have as many guns as they want and we want the government to leave us alone. Except when it comes to abortion. Or gay marriage. On those, we want the government to invade your doctor’s office or your bedroom.
I recently heard a great Cruz put-down by one of his former colleagues: “Why is Cruz so immediately disliked by those who meet him? It saves time.”
Well, against Cruz at least, time is on Donald Trump’s side. I think.
As is the media, it seems.
To those who make their living covering the news: don’t fall for this circus trick. You may get a sugar high now, but the ultimate crash and burn will do long-lasting damage.
Tom Allon, the president of City & State, NY, was a candidate for Mayor in 2013. He can be reached at tallo