Can we talk about this chart, from The New York Times?
Last month, as in previous months, Donald Trump greatly exceeded other presidential candidates in his ability to attract "earned media" -- that is, free TV coverage. ("Bought media" is paid advertising.) Yes, it's a disgrace that Trump gets as much coverage as he does.
However, when the Trump moment is over and we assess how things got to this point, we should not conclude that Trump arrived at where he was strictly because he got far more airtime than any other candidate. That's making excuses. That's saying, "Oh, we couldn't help ourselves -- television made Americans vote for this bile-spewing fraud."
We shouldn't conclude that because everyone in America, not just Republican primary voters, is watching lots and lots of Trump, and the rest of us aren't impressed. Quite the contrary: If you look at polls of the entire country, Trump's unfavorable ratings are now in the 60 percent range -- about where they were when he announced his candidacy -- while his favorable ratings are in the 20s and 30s. If you look at polling of head-to-head matchups for the general election, Trump does the worst against both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, losing decisively to both.
Blaming TV lets GOP voters, the Republican Party, and conservative media off the hook. For years, these people have worked themselves into an irrational frenzy because not everyone in America is white, heterosexual, Christian, and a gun owner, and because a lot of people disagree with them on issues, including, most infuriatingly, the twice-elected president of the United States, who actually has more of a say in how government is run than they do. They've concluded that this is a world-historic injustice and that the grievance must be redressed immediately. An oleaginous snake-oil peddler was one of the people touted by their own media told years ago as a possible savior, and now they're his zealots. They didn't just start believing he could smite all their enemies when he began making regular appearances on their TVs last summer. They'd been believers -- in him, or at least in the notion that someone can and should neutralize everyone in the political system who disagrees with them, and everyone whose demographic profile makes them uncomfortable -- for a long time.
They were primed for Trump. They were also primed to believe that negative coverage of him was a sign that he had all the right enemies. The rest of us can grasp that his words are appalling and his attempts to demonstrate that he's qualified to be president are laughable, but Republican voters can't, because they think he's the messiah they've been told is needed to save America.
Trump's on TV all the time, but he hasn't persuaded most of us to vote for him -- just a certain subset of delusional rageoholics. If you want to know "why Trump?," figure out how those people got that way.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog