How can Trump possibly be ahead?

How is it possible that Donald Trump is ahead in the polls? What, if anything, will it take for Republicans and independents to finally turn against him?

These are the questions that are first and foremost in the minds of just about any non-Trumpy news consumer.

Yet our elite media isn’t doing jack shit to answer them.

Sure they run the occasional article about inflation, or Biden’s age, or a Democratic split on Gaza, pointing to Democratic weakness.

But there’s also an emerging critical mass of articles describing the dystopian white Christian dictatorship that a Trump victory would enable, complete with criminal charges against political opponents, a purge of ethical government workers, and draconian action against immigrant and LGBTQ communities.

Seemingly every day, Trump makes his threat to end democracy as we know it more vivid and noxious. One day it’s calling his opponents “vermin” – like the things you exterminate – and the next day he’s calling on his supporters to “finish the job once and for all” in 2024.

Plus, there’s the whole matter of that attempted insurrection and the dozens of felony counts and the million things Trump has done that would normally disqualify someone from holding any office, not to mention the presidency.

So why why why?

Nothing else matters nearly as much to the future of our country as understanding why Americans are so susceptible to Trumpism — and what, if anything, can be done about it.

So I’m perplexed and appalled that our top political reporters appear to lack any interest in truly exploring this mystery.

I suppose it’s because they are lazy.

Because the only way to really figure it out is to talk to people. Lots of people. Lots and lots of people.

Not a quick trip to do some painfully cliched both-sides reporting in flyover country. (Please read David Roberts’ brilliant excoriation of the Washington Post’s latest attempt here.)

But actual in-depth interviews, with thousands of real voters, to understand how so many of them have arrived at a place where they think Trump is going to save the country rather than destroy it.

Is it tribal? Is it ignorance? Is it the effect of Fox propaganda? Is it the anodyne tone of the pox-on-both-your-houses mainstream media coverage? Is it racism? Is it know-nothingism? Is it inchoate fury? Is it an impatience with democracy? Is it a psychological need for a domineering daddy figure?

An intelligent interviewer, asking non-judgmental questions, could elicit a lot of responses that would be insightful. And we could all learn something.

Ever since I launched this website in 2019, I’ve been calling for a rededication to the old art of voter interviews – open-ended, empathetic interviews that explore not just voters’ political opinions but their formative moments and their value systems.

The day after the Trump’s 2020 election loss – in which, you may recall, Trump still got 74 million votes – I called for “an army of reporters” to delve deeply into the pathology of this huge chunk of the American electorate – to fan out to communities all over the country and figure out what is happening to our country.

I’ve even tried to find funding (so far with no success) for an effort to pay local news reporters to conduct long, deep-listening interviews to feed an AI-enabled database of responses that journalists, researchers and the public could access to plumb these mysteries.

I am agnostic on how this gets done. But it is imperative that our political reporters get off their butts, off their phones, and out of the office to figure this out before it’s too late.


  1. There are millions of people out there who actually believe that Americans have too much freedom. And when those people actually believe that it would be better to install a wannabe dictator than to have “rigged” elections or a country where anyone who is not white, christian, male and heterosexual, this is what we see. The press has screwed us over by not reporting the situation accurately.

    Case in point: Trump recently launched into a laundry list of who needs to be expelled from the government. Among others, he mentions Communists. What came to my mind was Joseph McCarthy, but I haven’t heard a peep from the media that would be a deja vu for America.

  2. I have some ideas about what is going on both with reporters and with the public.

    Journalists of the last 50 years have been trained to see themselves as recording devices. Machines, they think, are objective. Reporters who voice any moral sense are ridiculed as squishes. And many reporters are simply scared to voice any dissent from the narrative the publishers and editors prescribe…not that anyone tells them what to write. They just see what gets published and try to fit in. Scaring or enraging the public to get attention is part of that.

    As for the public, there are three factors: confusion, exhaustion, and arrogance. The American public is extremely confused about what is going on because of poor reporting. When gas prices hit $5 a gallon, it was The End of the World. No one bothered to inform the public that gas prices hit $5 a gallon a decade ago, were in that range for several years, and then went down. This is not a big secret; just search on FRED (the St. Louis Federal Reserve) and gasoline prices.

    I read right-wing literature. If you don’t know history or economics, it’s very attractive. Nice simple solutions…why hasn’t anyone tried things like having a demagogic strongman leader, putting millions of people in camps, and bombing neighboring countries to help Americans not get drug addicted?

    Exhaustion is easy to understand. Many of us have been fighting our whole lives just to see people get treated fairly, earn enough to live reasonably comfortably, and not have to suffer the evils of war. Even people who haven’t been fighting for a better world have been fighting just to stay employed, housed, and sheltered.

    But there’s also a sense of arrogance, particularly among elites. They think they can do anything and life will go on as it has. They haven’t noticed the decline of relative power of the United States and the dangers that is leading to. On the Christian right, all too many are convinced that they are about to be raptured away, where they can watch the suffering of everyone else from their heavenly mansions. If they read their Bibles a little more carefully, they’d notice that (Rev. 7-14) that happy fate is reserved for 144,000 virgin Jewish males and that everyone else has to roast, drown, or otherwise suffer and die in the hell of global warming, disease, wars, and famine. And even the average citizen thinks that his/her duties start and end with voting, and that if their wants aren’t perfectly satisfied, they can afford to vote for a destroyer like Donald Trump, a loon like RFK, Jr., or no one to register their displeasure. These are all examples of people who have not figured out that no matter how bad it is, it can get worse. Like, a lot worse.

    I guess the world has always been this way. Some of us were lucky enough to enjoy a few years when learning and professionalism were respected.

  3. In terms of our immediate need to stop Trumpism I think our efforts would be better put toward pressuring the media to more effectively do their jobs, as outlined so well in the recent Columbia Journalism Review article, “Warped Front Pages”
    By failing us – focusing on horse-race coverage and political, not policy content – the media sets up the public to respond to the wrong things. This approach also stokes division as opposed to common concerns.
    Yes, we should talk to voters – we should ask them what’s important to them and the press should respond with reporting about those concerns.
    Instead, our MSM is, indeed, lazy. It’s so much easier to publish about a poll than it is to explain crucial policy issues to the public.
    I think we know about the variety of reasons why people support Trump. But, to change this, we push the press to focus on those issues/topics concerning the reachable people [those not too deep in the Trump cult] so they have accurate information that addresses their concerns.

  4. Pollsters got it wrong in 2018, 2020, and 2022. Here’s why political polling is no more than statistical sophistry

    Don’t none of the polls have factored in Gen z who has been given credit for stopping the Red wave in 2022. Statics show that they voted mostly Democratic. 41 million new Gen Z voters will be eligible to vote.
    -Republicans grapple with their weakness among Generation Z voters:

    -No, Black voters aren’t going to win the election for Trump
    Democrats. This is so basic as to be boring.
    -The Times story itself underscores my argument, even as it suggests that Biden and the Democrats are in trouble. According to a Times recent poll, “22 percent of Black voters in six of the most important battleground states said they would support former President Donald J. Trump in next year’s election, and 71 percent would back Mr. Biden.”
    Let’s say that again – 71 percent of Black voters in key states say that they would choose the incumbent over the criminal former president. That’s pretty much the story. There’s no need to go any further.

    But because those of us who pay attention to politics have to talk about something, we find ways to make the basics seem less boring, which is why the Times story compares two things that wouldn’t be compared if not for the urge to make a boring subject seem less so.

    What two things? The Times story compares its own poll, which found that 22 percent of Black voters would support Trump, to actual electoral results from 2020 and 2016. “Mr. Trump won just 8 percent of Black voters nationally in 2020 and 6 percent in 2016.” The Times reporters, who are doing what those of us who pay attention to politics do, characterize this “drift in support” as somehow “striking.”

    Sure, if we take seriously the comparison of a poll taken a year before from the election to actual election results. By the time we get to November 2024, that 22 percent is probably going to be in the single digits, just like it was the last two times. And sure it’s striking, if we take seriously the fact that a minority of Black voters say they’ll back Trump while a vast majority of Black voters say they’ll back Biden.

    We shouldn’t take such things seriously.

  5. It’s not a mystery . Rich white men run the country run the world actually .
    The media they own makes them billions with the narratives they sell . These myths such as the world was better back when women did not vote or have rights when white men were in charge in the government and the workplace have helped keep their firm grip on financial and political power . But now the countries developing minority majority is a threat to all that. Time to take control back with a little fascism death camps repression and slave labor . Racism is at the center of this country and always has been . Fear of those we eradicated enslaved and repressed is pushed in all media outlets 24/7 . They are blamed for all our problems . The programs for the poor take all their taxes . Crime is because of them . All their jobs go to minority hires , places In universities go to their kids not yours , leftist professors help teach leftist propaganda that helps them get ahead , even inflation is somehow implied to be their fault . Non of these narratives are true of course . Only a media that has mastered propaganda to the level ours has could put forth the narrative of fear so strong it overcomes the obvious and apparent total corruption of one of its political parties to create an actual election close enough to make them the millions in ad buys close elections bring them . When you are afraid enough of the other you will turn and run toward a different choice even if that choice is a fascist machine .

  6. You know the feeling you had when you launched Press Watchers? The excitement, the thrill because you were focused on perhaps the biggest story of our lifetime? Well, all the media outlets you cover feel the same way. The End of Democracy is a far preferable narrative than Infrastructure Week; the former gives everyone that high-stakes high & sells a lot of popcorn, while the latter is boring and bad for business.

    No one summed it up better than Dean Baquet on the eve of Trump’s nomination in 2016: “What a story! What a f***ing story!” And this: “Great stories trump everything else.”

    Believe them when they tell you who they are.

  7. Comments threads on right-wing websites provide an easily-accessed source of data about the mentality of Trump supporters. Ditto replies to right-wing posts on Twitter and Facebook. I would have thought AI could compile some fascinating compendiums of pro-Trump sentiment in the hands of an enterprising journalist. But I’ve yet to see it attempted.

  8. The kind of researching you are talking about is not “journalism” as much as “academia”. This is the type of thing sociologists do. I’m wondering if there are people doing what you suggest, but the results aren’t being publicized. If not, how do we encourage that kind of research?

  9. People are sick of the establishment, PERIOD. Everyone knows we are being lied to about everything through the complicit media, including being lied to about Trump.
    That’s how. We’re not dumb.

  10. “Anything goes. Tell them what they want to hear. Lie, cheat, steal, make it up. Making up stuff,” said former South Carolina state senator and Democratic nominee for Congress Tom Turnipseed about Republican campaign operative Lee Atwater. “He used to go back in the room to make up these polls, I tell you. He’d come back with a poll in about half an hour.”

    Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story (2008)
    Scroll to 17:17-17:25, YouTube, Gravitas Documentaries Jan. 19, 2023

  11. This is good, and related to what I’ve been saying since 2016. The mainstream media SHOULD have done much special reporting on the outrageous phenomenon of an unqualified phony like Donald Trump becoming a candidate for president. The media should have ridiculed him right out of the race. Yes, there’s blame to be spread around: the Republican National Committee should not have allowed him to be a candidate and the other 16 or 17 clown car members vying for the Republican nomination in 2016 should have called him out to his face as the vulgar, dishonest lout that he is but they were too cowardly. It fell to a supposedly trustworthy institution, the Free Press, and they epically failed. In broadcast interviews, they repeatedly allowed Trump to make crazy statements and then change the subject when they made attempts to challenge a statement. This is why the demoting of somebody like Mehdi Hasan is so annoying. He is an interviewer who doesn’t allow his subjects to wriggle out of answering.


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