I’ve seen several complaints this morning that the news media has failed to hold President Trump to account for the multiple allegations against him ranging from inappropriate touching to assault and rape. I think this is wrong. We’ve seen a clear pattern playing out in all the allegations about sexual misconduct and the firings, resignations and apologies which have followed in their wake. The consequences track entirely to the constituency – either political, commercial or corporate – the accused serves and depend on.
If the constituency doesn’t care, the accused will be fine.
Big public companies are vulnerable to and dependent on consumer sentiment. That is their constituency and they tend to follow public opinion, once it is engaged. The same is true of news organizations which are both (in most cases) public companies and also trade directly on public sentiment, usually sentiment of different political persuasions.
Separate from the sexual harassment and misconduct issue, we see this in corporate America on issues of race, diversity, evolving sentiment on cultural issues like LGBTQ rights. Corporations are certainly not progressive by nature. You can see that in their aggressive support for President Trump’s tax and regulatory policies. But they are quite sensitive to public opinion on high profile issues. So corporate America in general has refused to follow the Trump line on hate groups, NFL player bashing and the like. Why? A corporation’s brand reputation, particularly with younger people, is one of its most critical assets. For consumer-facing brands, younger people are literally the future. Younger Americans have more progressive views on race and many ‘cultural’ issues. They are also less white. Corporations don’t have partisan polarization or electoral colleges.
Trump doesn’t care. His constituency is overwhelmingly white and disproportionately older. Indeed, many define their political outlook against the attitudes which are so prevalent among young Americans. Their constituencies are different. They act differently.
The simple fact is that President Trump is dependent on his core supporters. They do not care about his long history of predatory behavior. Republican elected officials may care themselves. But they are also dependent on Trump’s core supporters. Once it was clear, a week or two out from the Access Hollywood revelations in October 2016, they stopped caring either.
Many national Republicans have denounced Roy Moore. But he’s still on the ticket and he has a good shot of winning the Senate seat. Why? Because his supporters don’t care. It’s a microcosm of the Trump story. I criticize the media for a lot of things. I think there is much to criticize in their coverage of Trump. But I think we should recognize this basic point: news coverage can’t force people to care about something they don’t care about. They can only share, promote and broadcast the information.
President Trump will continue to skate until the base of the Republican party starts to care. There’s no sign they will. They don’t care.