After reading Charlie Cooke’s biting takedown of political journalism’s crooked coverage of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, it hit me that Left media not only face a huge letdown but a huge fiscal dilemma. Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump generated immense amount of public interest; clicks and viewership, anger and adulation. Biden will never earn Obamaesque levels of enthusiasm or reverence — probably not even Bill Clinton levels. Nor Trump or Obama levels of detestation.
Biden, no doubt, will be the recipient of soft coverage, but I just don’t see any halos in his future or any creepy cults of personality popping up around him. Protecting this gaffe-prone president from voter scrutiny for four years won’t be an easy lift, but it will definitely be a boring one. One imagines those specialty reporters who followed Trump around, hyper-literally fact-checking every diatribe, will now be tasked with the soul-sucking job of properly contextualizing all of Biden’s word salads. Then again, maybe they’ll hand that job back to the interns.
It’s always been a symbiotic relationship. What will partisan personalities such as Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, or Morning Joe do without a villain the size of Trump? Try as they may, ginning up paranoia about “Moscow Mitch” or Kevin McCarthy or Tim Scott or Ted Cruz — or anyone I can think of — simply doesn’t have the same kind of entertainment value. No one engenders the same hysteria, emotionalism, smugness, and conspiratorial coverage. The CNN Model — it’s been all bananas over apples (or, is it the other way around?) for four years — is unsustainable.
The New York Times saw a spike in subscriptions during the 2016 election cycle, and now has a record number of online subscribers. Maybe these high levels are the new normal, but sustained growth seems unlikely. The surge in subscriptions across left-wing outlets has pretty clearly been tied to the Trump presidency. Ad-sales projections have been falling for Trump-less cable news. I’m no media business expert, but now that Americans have voted to avert patriarchal fascism — a miracle, indeed — what issues drive new subscribers? I suppose they’ll be milking “Trumpism” for as long as possible. But moving from the endless drama over the looming Nazi coup to talking about the carbon projections in the Paris Accords isn’t going to be great for resistance clicks.