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Op-ed

The president's supporters are clear: ‘In Trump, we trust.’

Trump does things his way because the old way was getting people nowhere — and that's what people like about him.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

One recurring theme at the "Keep America Great" rally in Dallas last Thursday was the erosion of trust in America's systems, particularly the media, among the president's supporters.

As I walked through a sea of red "Make America Great Again" hats and blue polyester Trump 2020 flags with white block letters interviewing supporters from all over the state, one thing was clear: Their unwavering support for the president.

President Donald Trump had had a tough two weeks before the rally. The U.S. House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry, and the Kurds, America's allies in the fight against ISIS, were attacked by Turkey after the president pulled U.S. troops from northern Syria.

Then, in what was poor optics, the administration announced that the G-7 economic summit would take place at his Doral resort in Miami. He reversed the decision but not before he was pummeled in the media by all sides, including Republicans on Capitol Hill.

It was a bold announcement considering the criticism his administration directed at Hunter Biden, who profited in Ukraine from his father's position as vice president. Hunter reportedly received a salary of up to $80,000 per month while serving on the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company based in Kyiv, Ukraine.

But none of that seemed to faze the president's supporters — which isn't a surprise to anyone.

In a Quinnipiac University Poll published Oct. 14, voters were split on impeachment with 46 percent saying he should be impeached and 48 percent saying he shouldn't.

Unsurprisingly, the president's approval ratings remained at 41 percent among registered voters despite a particularly terrible week in the press for a president who faces heavy scrutiny regularly.

Trump's approval ratings have remained between 41 percent and 45 percent for 500 consecutive days, no matter what he does.

And many of his supporters in Dallas reflected that as they waited in long lines to see him at the 20,000-seat American Airlines Center in the heart of downtown Dallas. The event felt more like a concert than a rally.

One question I posed to every attendee I interviewed at the rally was where do they get their news and why.

I know you think every answer was probably Fox News, but it wasn't. They weren't all too happy with America's No. 1 cable news network.

Many of the president's supporters in Dallas told me they're turning to multiple news sources to piece together what they feel they aren't getting from the mainstream media.

"We want to be informed, we don't want to be influenced," an older African American gentleman told me outside the rally. He was there with his wife and was wearing a white T-shirt that said, "The Forgotten Man."

Negativity from the 2016 general election eroded trust in sources of information greatly. Confidence in the media rock bottomed in 2016 at 32 percent, according to Gallup — the lowest in the poll's history. That number among Republicans was even worse at 14 percent.

Three years later, only 41 percent of Americans say they trust the media, Gallup reported in September, which is down 4 points from last year.

And while 34 percent of Americans get their news online, 44 percent still prefer television news over all other mediums such as newspapers, radio, websites, apps, and social media. Only 7 percent of Americans are reading print news these days, which is down 4 points from 2016.

Press coverage for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Trump was overwhelmingly negative during the 2016 presidential election. The media coverage was so awful that it was chastised in a Harvard study that appeared in Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

"Negative news has partisan consequences," Harvard professor and author of the report Thomas Patterson said.

Although negative news coverage isn't a new phenomenon by any means, Patterson said, "A healthy dose of negativity is unquestionably a good thing," but "an incessant stream of criticism has a corrosive effect."

And that's what the negative coverage has been: incessant.

That's why when news of something serious comes out about the president's conduct, people are reluctant to believe it.

"Until the early 1960s, news coverage of national politics divided rather evenly between Congress and the president," the report said.

But for Trump, that division is lopsided: "Trump's coverage during his first 100 days was not merely negative in overall terms. It was unfavorable on every dimension. There was not a single major topic where Trump's coverage was more positive than negative."

The study focused on leading news organizations such as CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

The only outlet that portrayed Trump somewhat positively was, unsurprisingly, Fox News by featuring coverage that was 34 percent less negative.

That explains why many of the president's supporters appreciate his candor — and his tweets — and come out for his rallies en masse.

Some 18,500 were confirmed in attendance at the American Airlines Center last week and 5,000 remained outside the arena where they watched the president on a giant Jumbotron in Victory Park.

Trump makes his supporters feel as though they're receiving a version of the truth the press doesn't present because of a lack of fair-minded journalists.

Instead of the press learning from their mistakes, they've doubled down on their negative coverage and have now elected themselves as the impeachment press in their latest blitzkrieg.

Can you remember the last positive news story you read about the president or a politician?

Everything is a crisis to the media, and it's becoming tiresome for Americans to read the headlines daily.

It's easy to become apathetic when leading news outlets cry wolf daily.

Patterson said, "Trump's coverage during his first 100 days set a new standard for negativity. Of news reports with a clear tone, negative reports outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent."

The president's supporters have long felt the negative coverage was inherent, and the study and leaked memos from news execs seemed to substantiate this.

But if that still doesn't convince the president's harshest critics that he's treated unfairly, CNN and the New York Times news executives are on record detailing how they would negatively cover the president using Russia and obstruction of justice as their vehicle.

When that didn't work, they decided to focus on the president's alleged racism.

Yet critics continue to wonder why the president's supporters are enthusiastically devoted to him.

It's not because they're racists who want to maintain the status quo, it's the opposite. Trump shattered the status quo.

Tornadoes form within thunderstorms, they don't just appear out of thin air.

It's undeniable that a figure like Trump was only possible by a perfect storm in modern American politics.

And to reduce his supporters to hillbilly racists is just as intellectually lazy as many accuse his supporters of being.

James Otis — who was famous during America's Revolutionary period for his motto "Taxation without Representation is tyranny" — warned: "When the pot boils, the scum will rise."

He said this as he witnessed the upending of an entire social class during the American Revolution.

In 2016, that pot boiled, and that scum is rising.

One last thing…
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