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Vanity Fair’s Ken Stern reports on his weeklong exercise in reading only conservative news sites, Breitbart News in particular. Stern grudgingly acknowledges Breitbart’s success in shaping the populist movement from which Donald Trump benefitted, and he suggests that the left needs “an effective counterweight in media to the Breitbarts of the world.”
From Vanity Fair:
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I have learned a few things over the last few weeks. In general, it seems like the Democrats have become so fascinated with the demographics of 2050 that they have forgotten the demographics of 2016. Whites with less than a college degree are still a potent group in this country. Limbaugh, Levin, Breitbart, Hannity, and others—not to mention Trump—have not forgotten this fact.
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In this day and age, connecting with that audience begins not with the candidate but with the media. Breitbart did not succeed because of Trump; Trump succeeded because of Breitbart, and there is no analogous media organization from the left that connects with this audience. Rachel Maddow likely isn’t playing as well in Youngstown, Ohio; Paul Krugman is probably not performing in Pikeville, Kentucky.
Limbaugh, Levin, Breitbart and the rest are a success because they have perfected how to channel and drive both the resentment and the aspiration of their audience. As Trump proved this year, it is more about attitude and a sense of being on the same team than it is about policies and ideas. In the days of labor unions, Democrats knew how to connect with the working-class audience, but that connection has been co-opted by others. In fact, most of the things that Trump spoke about this week on YouTube—trade, job creation, and ethics reform—were Democratic issues long before they were Trump’s issues.
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The events of the last month make clear that progressives need an effective counterweight in media to the Breitbarts of the world. Right now, the counterpunching is entirely around trying to discredit conservative, alt-right media. That may be fine for today but in the long run, the left wing will need to find its own voices of passion, authenticity, and, apparently, a certain amount of outrage. If you don’t believe me, you can search it out for yourself, Snowflake.
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