What Is The Point of The Washington Post Opinion Section?

October 18, 2018

Donald Trump doesn't like the media. At least that's what he says publicly. He is obsessed with the media, much like a gambling addict is obsessed with casinos. To the extent that Trump really does hate the media, it's only because the media (apart from Fox News) hates Donald Trump. This is not surprising. The political media is almost universally populated by college graduates residing in Washington, D.C., or New York. It's not his best demographic.

That said, almost every aspect of Trump's relationship with the media is symbiotic. They don't like each other, but they are obsessed with one another, and obsessed with themselves. The media won't stop talking about Trump, so Trump won't stop talking about the media—and vice versa. If you like Trump, you probably don't like the mainstream media—and vice versa. Trump doesn't want the media to stop talking about him, and the media doesn't want Trump to stop talking about the media. He insists on making every news cycle about himself. The media happily obliges, because he rates well and drives traffic.

It's become a little tiresome, to say the least. Sure, it's the media's job to report the news, and Trump is constantly making news, and creating drama, much like a reality show producer who wants to keep the audience hooked. It's less clear why the media finds it necessary to maintain a voluminous stable of pundits and op-ed columnists who contribute very little to the so-called "national discussion" beyond shopworn diatribes against Trump's depravity, and the Republican Party's acquiescence.

Here's one example: The Washington Post opinion section. What, exactly, is the point? It is, perhaps not surprisingly, an endless stream of anti-Trump, anti-GOP tirades—the same familiar argument repeating into oblivion under different bylines. (Scroll down for a sample of the Post's opinion output since July.)

Trump is not a popular president, and the average Washington Post reader is unlikely to (un-ironically) own a MAGA hat. Maybe this is what customers demand. After all, the Daily Show thrived by placating a certain liberal subset's lust for affirmation of their moral superiority, especially during the Bush administration. People enjoy content that validates their worldview.

Critics of Fox News often accuse the network of creating an alternative reality for its viewers, but rarely consider the possibility that left-leaning media outlets—which is to say, practically all of them — are guilty of doing the same. Maybe it's because opinion journalists are just lazy, and can't think of anything interesting to write about it. One of the first things they teach in journalism school is the importance of finding a unique or unexplored angle from which to approach a topic. "Yes, Donald Trump, you are a 'racist'" (Jonathan Capehart, August 9) wouldn't make the cut.

Maybe it's because most journalists believe Trump is a unique mortal threat to democracy (and, more importantly, to journalism) requiring an all-hands-on-deck effort to defeat. It's a worldview that reflects the attitudes of Democratic primary voters in 2020, but is not as commonly shared outside of D.C. and New York, even among voters who dislike Trump. This is why so much of the "national political conversation" tends to come across as journalists yucking it up amongst themselves. Well, that's what it is.

Below is a sample of the Post's opinion output since July 2018. This isn't to suggest the paper never publishes anything worthwhile. (See here.) But it will make you wonder why Jeff Bezos doesn't just print "Trump is bad" at the top of every page. Think of all the money and column space it would save.

Eugene Robinson (Columnist focusing on politics and culture)

  • Our planet is in crisis. We don’t have time for Trump’s foolishness. (link)
  • The GOP wants women to shut up and go away (link)
  • Just how low can Republican senators go? (link)
  • Fairness left the GOP long ago. Is decency gone, too? (link)
  • Why Trump is so frantic right now (link)
  • This vile, unadulterated racism (link)
  • Want to honor McCain GOP? Grow a spine. (link)
  • Trump the mob boss wants protection (link)
  • Trump’s rally rhetoric is going to get somebody killed (link)
  • The world is burning, and the Trump administration wants to make it worse (link)

Dana Milbank (Op-ed columnist covering national politics)

  • The latest example of a Trump adviser going bananas (link)
  • Trump’s utter amorality has been exposed (link)
  • Trump goes on a bender (link)
  • The Trump albatross (link)
  • Republican won’t have anything left to salvage (link)
  • We are a deeply stupid country (link)

EJ Dionne Jr. (Columnist covering national politics)

  • America is slouching toward autocracy (link)
  • The path to autocracy is all too familiar (link)
  • Trump is working with the trolls (link)
  • Trump lies. And lies. And lies. (link)
  • Prepare for a festival of GOP hypocrisy (link)

Catherine Rampell (Columnist covering economics, public policy, politics and culture)

  • Trump’s arm-twisting of the Fed is what’s truly ‘loco’ (link)
  • The GOP’s two top priorities seem to be duds. So what does the party even stand for? (link)
  • Trump could play Scrooge this holiday season (link)
  • Some other resonances between Trump and Al Capone (link)
  • Three reasons Trump’s new immigration rule should make your blood boil (link)
  • The economy’s great. That doesn’t mean Trumponomics is. (link)

Karen Tumulty (Columnist covering national politics)

  • Trump’s America is a bully, not a beacon (link)
  • Trump spreads racism with a fighter pilot’s precision (link)
  • Trump’s worst moment since Charlottesville (link)

David Ignatius (Columnist covering foreign affairs)

  • Trump sees enemies everywhere. He should look in the mirror. (link)
  • John McCain understood that the Republican Party was selling its soul. He refused. (link)
  • What a baby (link)
  • Last chance, Republicans (link)
  • Trump just took us another step closer to the abyss (link)

Jonathan Capehart (Opinion writer focusing on the intersection of social and cultural issues and politics)

  • I said Kanye West was laughable. He proved me right. (link)
  • I used to be afraid to call Trump a mob boss. Not anymore. (link)
  • Yes, Donald Trump, you are a ‘racist’ (link)

Helaine Olen (Opinion writer focusing on politics, economics and American life)

  • Donald Trump’s grotesque fraud (link)
  • Brett Kavanaugh’s lies are part of the Republican ecosystem (link)
  • The GOP’s cowardice problem (link)
  • Republicans’ health-care suicide mission (link)
  • A record-breaking market doesn’t matter to most Americans (link)

Greg Sargent (Opinion writer covering national politics)

  • Trump's latest absurdity about the elections hints at much worse to come (link)
  • Why is the mob angry? Because Trump is ripping us apart with bigotry and hatred. (link)
  • Lawless, raging president fears the ‘angry mob.’ Good — he should. (link)
  • Trump’s corruption is staining everything. Now it’s about to stain the Supreme Court. (link)
  • Trump’s latest abuse of power is likely to blow up in his face (link)
  • Another big Woodward reveal: Trump’s bottomless bad faith and nonstop lying (link)
  • Trump’s paranoid rage is getting worse. But the White House ‘resistance’ is a sham. (link)
  • Trump’s latest rally rant is much more alarming and dangerous than usual (link)
  • Trump’s authoritarian musings are getting normalized, part 973 (link)
  • Trump’s authoritarian musings are now seen as routine (link)

Paul Waldman (Opinion writer covering politics)

  • The GOP has successfully liberated itself from shame (link)
  • Trump has deeply damaged America’s global image. How much does it matter? (link)
  • Why do all these racists keep joining the GOP? (link)
  • The GOP’s cruelty toward the poor is paying dividends in suffering (link)
  • The most intense and dangerous period of the Trump presidency is about to begin (link)
  • President Trump brings mafia ethics to the GOP (link)
  • Donald Trump’s war on workers (link)
  • Trump is in trouble, so he’s reaching for his ace in the hole: hate (link)