If your political tendencies disinclined you to favor the U.S. presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, you might be tempted to think that for all its initial implausibility, it’s in retrospect not that tough to explain: Trump’s doubters simply underestimated a contempt for reality and depth of bigotry among Republican Party voters. It’s an inversion of Trump’s apparent view of himself, really: His haters couldn’t comprehend how much true-believing Americans would love him for his authenticity, decisiveness, and straight-shooting demolition of nonsense.
Speaking on Thursday at the Aspen Ideas festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, however, Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute argued for separating out the broad, complex forces behind the current rise of populism in the U.S. and the narrow, contingent reasons for Trump’s success in picking off the GOP nomination. “There are are a couple of black-swan events that happened here,” Brooks said.
“One was that media are going bust, and they saw Donald Trump as bank. CNN gave Donald Trump an 80 percent market share of earned media. Eighty percent. They basically treated him like Anthony Bourdain, … as a reality-show star on CNN. Responsible fourth estate? It’s about money; it’s about not going out of business for another year. That’s what it comes down to,” he says. “The second was a field of 17 candidates on the Republican side.”