Abbie Hoffman used to tell the story of his appearance on the David Susskind program. Susskind was, among other things, a talk show host — a precursor of Larry King and even more annoying. He invited Hoffman on his show to inform him about Yippies, the left-wing counter-culturalists of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Instead of explaining Yippies to Susskind, Hoffman said he would demonstrate. “Here’s how a Yippie scratches his ear,” said Hoffman as he scratched. “Here’s how a Yippie blows his nose,” said Hoffman, blowing. (Hoffman also brought a live duck on Susskind’s set, but the duck was edited out)
This op-ed by Jill Abramson reminds me of Hoffman’s story. Abramson wants the media to develop a better understanding of a new “tribe” (she uses the word), one even stranger than the Yippies of old — the Trump supporter. To this end, she argues that reporters for the big coastal newspapers need to go out among this species in its natural habitat. Not just for a couple of days, but for an extended period.
As an example, Abramson cites Robert Caro, Lyndon Johnson’s biographer. He moved to Texas Hill Country for three years to better understand his subject’s background and upbringing.
But extended excursions to the heartland ought not be necessary to understand Trump supporters. Anyone not blinded by ideology should understand why “middle America” doesn’t like the mass influx of illegal immigrants, especially when many end up on welfare and some sell drugs and join gangs.
Anyone not blinded by ideology should understand why folks in towns whose factories have been closed aren’t fond of trade deals that hurt U.S. industries.
Anyone not blinded by ideology should understand why white Americans are tired of hearing about how racist America is (and they are) when they have never discriminated against anyone on the basis of race and when they know that, if their kids apply to college, they will be at a disadvantage because they are white.
And if big city reporters have any appreciation of patriotism, they will understand why many Americans are tired of having leaders apologize for America. And why some people like to wear “Make America Great Again” hats.
Finally, if big city reporters have any self-awareness, they will understand why Trump voters, roughly half the voting population, are disgusted with the media’s coverage of the president. Many Trump voters understand the man’s flaws. Some may have buyers’ remorse. But it’s nauseating to see the president bashed incessantly in the press and on television. Reporters shouldn’t have to move to Columbus, Nebraska or Bristol, Tennessee to understand this.
It’s telling that Abramson calls for improving coverage of Trump supporters, not Trump. Indeed, she calls the coverage of the president “excellent on the whole.”
I’m tempted to recommend that Abramson move to Enid, Oklahoma. But it wouldn’t help.
If the mainstream media wants better to cover Trump supporters, it should hire reporters who aren’t blinded by ideology and who have a modicum of self-awareness.