We are all familiar with the tale of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf;” and we certainly all remember it being used as allegory for how the media wailed about Donald Trump over and over in 2016. In the campaign version, the ominous ending came true: the big, bad, golden-haired wolf devoured the media, which tried its best to prevent his election.
Now two years on, the characters are the same, and the fairytale has begun in its familiar way with the media sounding the alarm each evening about the Trump gossip du jour. The end won’t come soon, though. It is clear that the story has now entered its very important — yet sometimes unnoticed — second phase: The part where the townspeople stop paying attention.
In May of 2018, the media is still crying wolf; and their screams are growing louder even though the panic is failing to set in. Rather than ringing the church bells, the villagers are simply looking in the forest for themselves. Instead of finding the Russian wolf (or Stormy Daniels, or Michael Cohen’s taxi medallions, or whatever the day’s rumormongering may be), they are peering through the trees and seeing tangible economic growth, cooperation on the Korean peninsula, and America reasserting itself abroad.
We can measure just how much crying the media has been doing; and likewise, we can quantify how fewer and fewer people are actually paying them any mind.
Trump’s approval rating among registered voters has been on the rise, and one poll even has him above 50 percent. Another poll now has the GOP actually picking up a significant amount of Senate seats in the midterms. But perhaps the most difficult statistic for Democrats and left-leaning journalists to digest is found in the latest CNN poll: 57 percent of respondents believe that things are going well in the U.S., the largest proportion to say so since January of 2007.
All this while the latest Media Research Center study shows an overwhelming — almost laughable — negative bias against the president. In the first part of the year, 91 percent of network news coverage of the president was anti-Trump.
Moreover, some of the polling actually indicates that Trump is gaining ground on the performance issues that the media has actually railed the loudest against.
For the most stark example, consider how the media covered the GOP tax reform. Despite research showing that its passing would grow the economy and benefit the overwhelming majority of middle-class taxpayers, most of the networks and newspapers parroted Democratic “end of the world” talking points. For them, the tax plan was a “gift to the rich,” would “devastate science,” and will “cause thousands to die.” Liberal politicians and pundits alike were certain that middle income Americans would be “scrooged,” despite the fact that even the Tax Policy Center agreed 80 percent of the country will see more in their paychecks.
Unsurprisingly, the tax plan faced public opposition at the time it was passed and while it was in the crosshairs of unfavorable media attention. However, now that Americans are seeing the results for themselves, its support is obviously growing. Even the New York Times found that its popularity grew by 14 percentage points in two months. As it turns out, Americans are happier with a bit of extra cash in their wallet… go figure.
Moreover, Trump’s overall approval rating is being buoyed by a new surge in middle-class support. On May 1, Reuters reported a nearly 12 point jump in just two weeks among voters earning between $25k and $100k; and when limited to just Democrats, it became a 10 point swing. Overall, 57 percent of people are happy with the president’s job performance on the economy.
On foreign policy, the notion that the public is not buying the media’s story is also fairly clear. In 2017, “experts” flooded the airwaves and editorial pages to warn us that Trump’s posturing against North Korea would end in nothing less than nuclear war.
For the non-experts out there, the fruitful diplomacy of late between President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE, North Korea, and our regional allies, has actually been taken as a positive step. Believe it or not, Americans may have noticed that the nuclear war didn’t pan out.
In the last two months, Trump’s job approval on foreign policy jumped 5 points in Economist/YouGov polls and 6 points in Reuters/Ipsos. Most telling, 55 percent of Democrats believe it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” the recent progress in the region will actually end the Korean conflict, once and for all.
The disconnect between the nightly news and the average Joe must frustrate the president as he makes progress on a number of fronts. His tweets about “fake news” are self-evident.
But on the other hand, it may seem that at least a part of POTUS delights in the idea of the media crying wolf. When pundits wail the loudest, Trump seems to laugh the hardest. He just headlined the NRA convention, after all.
The smart bet would be that Trump’s trolling of the media would only grow as their bias is questioned and relevance wanes. In order to regain their influence over the American public, they have to stop crying wolf; and that, we can be sure, won’t happen anytime soon. Just ask the boy.
Joseph Borelli is the minority whip of the New York City Council, Republican commentator, professor and Lindsay Fellow at the City University of New York's Institute for State and Local Governance. He has also been published in the NY Daily News, Washington Times and Washington Examiner, and appears on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN and HLN. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeBorelliNYC.