Beltway media fears the loss of Trump gravy train: A response from the resistance

Some in the beltway press are trying to create false equivalence between Trump and Biden.

If you are upset that members of Congress each made roughly $130,000 over the nine months that Republicans held up the second round of COVID relief, you probably haven't considered that the beltway reporters and network hosts glued on your screen bemoaning it probably made many, many times more in the same period.

Top national correspondents and cable and network prime time hosts make insane amounts of money - often millions a year - and they pad it with book-deals that often arise from social media stardom.

Donald Trump, devastating as he has been to the instruments of democratic self-government, including and especially a free press, is a lucrative figure for certain reporters. Now that Trump is on his way out, beltway beat reporters who have grown accustomed to fancy lifestyles and Twitter highs are worried that their gravy train might slow down with an incoming Biden administration that promises to focus on the mundane task of governing at the cost of the daily drama of shouting matches and social media memes.

Under the guise of concern about how criticisms about Joe Biden's presidency will be received compared to those of Donald Trump's, that fear of the slowing gravy train is the core grievance in a piece penned in The Atlantic by McCay Coppins.

On the surface, Coppin's column appears to express concerns about how "the resistance" to Donald Trump, people who were easily drawn to hard-hitting media criticisms of Trump and his policies will react should reporters choose to exercise the same vigor in holding Joe Biden's feet to the fire. Surfacing almost from the beginning, however, is angst about a more boring social media presence, lack of drama to drive traffic and eyeballs, and the need for nuanced reporting. There is a palpable worry that journalists may have to resume their role as journalists rather than folk-heroes.

"As the White House beat became the biggest story in the world, once-obscure correspondents were recast in the popular imagination as resistance heroes fighting for truth, justice, and the American way." [...]

"[Olivia] Nuzzi can already tell that the dynamic will be different in the incoming administration. “On a purely social level, I don’t know that reporting critically on Joe Biden will feel as safe for reporters,” she told me. “You’re not going to get yass queen–ed to death.”" 

I hate to break it to the press, but for the real resistance, the media was never a folk hero. We hold reporters and the press as a whole accountable for eight years of the constant, sensationalist, fact-free drumbeat of conflict and strife in covering President Obama. We hold outlets responsible for their horrific failure to vet Donald Trump properly in 2016 while dramatizing an email story about Hillary Clinton, who's been exonerated by multiple investigations.

Now, it is true that during Trump's term, correspondents who actually bothered to challenge Donald Trump as a liar and a figure destructive to democratic norms and the freedom of the press were rewarded with popular accolades from the resistance, but that was not so with not every hack access-journalist.

The lamenting that being critical but fair on Joe Biden won't earn fandom for journalists as it did them when covering Trump exposes more about the devolution of journalism into a sensationalist clickbait than about the reactions of readers. That so-called journalists are worried about devalued book deals and less enthusiastic response to a fair critic of a leader speaks to how much people in the journalism profession have come to see their own success in terms of reaction to tweets rather than fidelity to the truth.

It's the addiction to, as an anchor anonymously quoted in The Atlantic termed it, the "narcotic" of social media stardom, careerism, and the lavish lifestyle 'reporters' have become accustomed to that they fear losing, not the ability to fairly criticize the next president.

CNN's Jim Acosta, who has dueled with Trump, is right when he says:

"The drama has made him famous, but Acosta said he doesn’t expect to bring the same crusading style to his coverage of the next administration. “I don’t think the press should be trying to whip up the Biden presidency and turn it into must-see TV in a contrived way,” he said. [...] "If being at the White House is not an experience that might merit hazard pay, then perhaps it is going to be approached differently.""

It was never the press that made the Trump White House into must-see TV. It was the sitting president's temper tantrums, his constant lies that are even to this day threatening to destabilize the institutions of American democracy, his and his supporters' targeting of the press as 'enemy of the people', and his administration's refusal, again and again, to defend American institutions both here at home and abroad that created the dramatic car-crash style exchanges that became must-see TV.

Biden will not seek to be the kind of disruptive, destructive, devolutionary, and damaging president that Donald Trump has been. He will not seek to create drama with every word he speaks. He will instead focus on the boring, mundane, all-important task of rebuilding this country at every level: from reconstituting a crumbling physical infrastructure and an economy badly bruised by Donald Trump's failure to control the coronavirus to rebuilding America's relationships across the globe to repairing the Republican damage to health care, to refocusing on domestic and global climate leadership, to reimagining policing and public safety and addressing systemic racism.

Joe Biden won't get everything right, and it will always be fair to offer factual, realistic, and nuanced coverage of what he does in office, even if that coverage is critical. No one will demand that President Joe Biden get all-fawning coverage all the time.

But the resistance will rise up against any inherent assumption in the press that Joe Biden is anything like the person Donald Trump has exhibited himself to be: an unpatriotic, authoritarian demagogue who is a threat to the national security and domestic cohesion of the United States and bereft of empathy and any modicum of kindness. We will resist the media's knee-jerk instinct, for the sake of retweets and book deals, to treat Joe Biden or his administration with the hostility that Donald Trump and his administration demonstrated it deserves on a daily basis.

Of course, it was easier to report critically on Trump and earn accolades, but that is not because of the character of the "resistance." It is because of Donald Trump's character, or to be more precise, the dastardly lack thereof. It took less nuance to be fair and critical of Donald Trump than it will take to be the same for Joe Biden. Reporting fairly on Joe Biden will require a turning up of the level of nuance, but only because Donald Trump, as a politician and person, is as lacking in nuance as they come.

So yes, "the resistance", as we are, will demand that President Biden be treated with respect, fairness, and the benefit of the doubt that he, his administration, and the policies he plans to pursue deserve. The endeavor in certain corners of the media to create false equivalencies between Donald Trump, who forfeited deference generally given to a president by taking a sledgehammer to the institutions that secure our freedoms and allow us to hold our leaders accountable, and Joe Biden, who has spent a lifetime preserving, protecting, defending, and improving those institutions, is nothing short an attempt to normalize Donald Trump post-presidency.

We will not stand for it.