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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Trump as Side Effect

Ironically, though, some Koch insiders and critics alike agree that the conditions that are now challenging the Kochs are in some ways of their own creation. By helping to empower the anti-establishment tea party protests in 2009 and 2010, these people say, the Koch network inadvertently laid the groundwork for a movement that turned towards a strain of anti-immigrant protectionism that is anathema to the Koch’s ideology, and that proved fertile ground for Trump’s nationalist brand of populism.
“We are partly responsible,” said one former network staffer. “We invested a lot in training and arming a grassroots army that was not controllable, and some of these people have used it in ways that are not consistent with our principles, with our goal of advancing a free society, and instead they have furthered the alt-right.”
A major donor to the Koch network argued that the tea party’s early success at electing conservative champions “led to unrealistic expectations,” which then fomented disappointment with Washington gridlock and set the stage for Trump’s ability to tap into anti-establishment fervor.
“What we feel really badly about is that we were not able to educate many in the tea party more about how the process works and how free markets work,” said the donor. “Seeing this movement that we were part of creating going off in a direction that’s anti-free-market, anti-trade and anti-immigrant — many of us are really saddened by that. Unfortunately, there is little in the short term we can do about that.”
Oliver Darcy and Pamela Engel write at Business Insider:
Perhaps more important, however, the conservative media industrial complex successfully managed over the years to lock the Republican Party away from access to its own base. Those who consumed conservative media were taught not to trust politicians or, even worse, the mainstream media.
As a result, party leaders were beholden to a handful of individuals who controlled the conservative media and, thus, held the keys to their voters. Elected officials and candidates seeking office dared not criticize the conservative media’s most powerful members, for fear of the wrath that would ensue if they did.
The power the conservative press held allowed its members to decide who was accepted by the base and who wasn’t. True conservatives could be painted as unprincipled moderates, and, as in the case of Trump, unprincipled moderates could be painted as exactly what the base wanted.
The GOP "has appeased it, they've sucked up to it, they've been afraid of going up against it," said Charlie Sykes, an influential conservative radio host in Wisconsin. "I think that you have seen that played out this year. Has there been any willingness on the part of any mainstream conservative to call out this alt-right media? I'm not seeing it."
Republicans instead allowed their base to be held captive by a conservative press that moved their base further right, pushed conspiracy theories about Obama, and set unrealistic exceptions for them while in office.
So it should not be surprising that when Trump came along in 2016 and aggressively echoed this rhetoric, a significant portion of the base accepted him.
"This has been building for a long time," said Ryan Williams, the former deputy national press secretary for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign who is now the senior vice president of communications at FP1 Strategies. "Trump came in and capitalized on the mood."
Also note that the campaign featured a gap between the "mainstream conservative" media and the pro-Trump conservative media.