Is the press trying to help elect Trump?

And how not to help them

Is the press trying to help elect Trump?
Photo by Tabrez Syed on Unsplash

This is a guest post from FrameLab contributor Jason Sattler. Jason is LOLGOP on Twitter and pretty much any other social media platform you get sucked into. His writing has appeared in USA TODAY,, the New York Daily News and Alternet. He is the co-founder of Earlyworm, a news website focused on daily actions people can take to support democracy.

This is our first big test.

A Republican special counsel issued a 388-page attack ad against Joe Biden, clearing him of any criminal allegations related to retaining classified documents. But the prosecutor clearly tailored his report to damage the president. Among the accusations, and the one that angered Biden the most, is that he didn’t remember when his own son died.

Biden did an impromptu press conference, handled Fox News’ Steve Doocey better than most standup comics would, and made one verbal slip. This fed the frenzy of the New York Times, sensing a scandal nearing the magnitude of a woman using home email at work.

This is how Republicans destroy Democrats.

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They do it not by proving they committed crimes. But by demonstrating how they’re fallible humans vulnerable to the right-wing lust for power. Of the Democratic presidential candidates of the last 30 years, only Barack Obama has avoided a tarring from an amoral or aimless Republican in the Department of Justice. In return, he was accused of faking his own birth.

So the question is: what do we do about this?

You don’t have to play.

You don’t have to pretend that the press actually believes that Biden’s age, memory or trustworthiness with classified documents are actual issues — especially compared to Trump, who is basically the same age, whose speech is so littered with lies and errors you can’t even parse which is which, and who stole a trove national secrets, some of which he probably still hasn’t returned.

You don’t even need to pretend these two men are comparable in any way. Biden is a standard 20th century American public servant imbued with all the imperfections that come with that. Trump is the worst president in American history. A demagogue with dictatorial aspirations. A fraud whose greatest accomplishment in life was avoiding any indictments for his first 76 years.

Politics is moral warfare.

You cannot engage the frames the press traffics in because it knows the best way to reach the maximum audience is to give Republicans what they want and drive liberals to hate reading, hate sharing, and even hate subscribing. Because even by rebutting them, you spread and strengthen them. That’s just how brains work.

Instead, Democrats need to push their own frames. The story here could easily be “Trump loses again, as Biden is cleared.” Democrats could then jump on TV and insist that this is an excellent time for Trump to return any classified documents that he still has at his fraudulent businesses and end this betrayal of America of national security.

These angles are journalistically valid as the story we’re being sold. And they’re far more moral than pandering to narratives Republicans feed, knowing the New York Times and others will play along.

November is still decades away in political years. Every flare up or stumble feels permanent and unfixable. But the truth is the news moves so fast that nothing stays present in the discourse unless there is a concerted effort to keep it there.

We have 30 years of experiences we can no longer ignore. We know Republicans use their allies inside the Department of Justice to concern troll the press about Democratic candidates. We know they play pious and law-abiding as their presidents have committed some of the worst crimes in the history of the Republic. We know that Republican leadership continually makes America weaker, poorer, and more aligned with the worst authoritarians on earth.

Ignore Republican accusations laundered through the press. Call out the con and stay focused on what matters. Trump is a corrupt loser who will only betray America again. Everything else is just a deflection from that undeniable fact.

Pass the test. Our democracy depends on it.

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