I saw an article the other day that said the decline in ratings for the cable news networks in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period last year was proof that those outlets missed having Trump drive viewership.
While that’s true to a certain extent — a powerful yet crazy old man shouting into a microphone over and over again does attract attention — there’s another factor that I think was even larger. Last year at this time, we were still in the early months of the COVID crisis, with much of the country locked down, a population that was unsure of what was safe, and a virus that was only beginning to kill Americans en masse. Say what you want about them, but the news networks not named Fox did provide valuable daily resources to viewers desperate for accurate information.
This year, on the other hand, while COVID hasn’t been completely extinguished, receiving the vaccine and beginning to return to some normalcy means I haven’t watched even five minutes of cable news for several months. It occurs to me that I haven’t seen a single segment of any of the late night network shows, either. But I had stopped recording them a long time ago, secure in the knowledge that I could catch up with any important moments I missed by checking YouTube the next day.
As for Trump’s appeal, there’s more evidence of its waning in the fact that he shut down his much-hyped blog the other day, dismayed by the microscopic audience it attracted. Fortunately, most media outlets had long ago stopped reporting on his online ranting, which consisted entirely of his obsession with the “stolen election” meme. At this point, any of his cult members who believe he will be reinstated as president in August must also think their NFL team will be belatedly presented with the Vince Lombardi Trophy from the Super Bowl that was played six months ago.
With that in mind, I can’t help wonder what this means for the GOPers who continue to suck up to Trump and whether their political fortunes will be impacted by the public paying him less heed. This is not to imply that the party and its candidates will back away from the extremist, white supremacist, reality-denying platform that defines their modern agenda, just an observation that he doesn’t deserve that much credit for the year-to-year drop in viewership of the cable news outlets.