- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Even with the shutdown averted, Democrats continue to act as if they believe that no matter what they do, Republicans will get the blame, but reality is beginning to undermine their narrative.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer declared last week that the impasse over continued government funding, resolved for now, will be known always as the “Trump Shutdown” even as many in the media began suggesting that perhaps some of the blame lay with him and his colleague’s “no compromise” approach to governing.

A few have gone so far as to suggest that the whole thing is little more than a hissy fit thrown by the senator and his friends to mark the first anniversary of their electoral loss to Mr. Trump.

It is true that most major media reports continue to support Mr. Schumer’s version of the blame game, but that some are showing a smidgen of independence could be a harbinger of things to come.

The Democratic narrative about Mr. Trump and his administration has been echoed from the beginning by the anti-Trump media, but has created an ever-widening credibility gap that threatens whatever influence it once enjoyed. Recent poll data suggests a heavy price for the partisanship that gripped the media as never before in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

The public increasingly discounts media criticism of Mr. Trump and his allies as tainted because it comes from a source that is more widely viewed than ever before as partisan.

Consider that just three years ago roughly the same percentage of Republicans and Democrats told pollsters they trusted the media for objective reports on government and politics. Today that has changed dramatically.

In October, a Politico poll found that fully 46 percent of Americans believe the media actually “makes up” stories against Mr. Trump, a number that includes some 76 percent of Republicans polled. Even 20 percent of Democrats agree with the notion, but look at the partisan divide in the perception of the media.

Critics of Mr. Trump may like to attribute this growing credibility gap to the president’s frequent trashing of what he likes to call “fake news,” but it’s more than just that.

There have been far too many “reports” on everything from the economy to the investigation of possible Trump collusion with the Kremlin that have been proven patently untrue to raise real questions about the ability of today’s media to provide the fair but critical coverage of politics so important to public decisionmaking in a functioning free society.

Democrats in Congress and the anti-Trump media combined to convince the public in the weeks leading up to Congress passing the Republican tax plan that it was little more than an insiders’ scheme to channel monies from the middle class to the ultra-rich.

By the time it was voted on nearly two thirds of those being polled were opposed to its passage and more than 70 percent of taxpayers had been convinced that if it became law, their taxes would go up as the Democrats charged rather than down as the Republicans alleged.

That was the narrative, but since its passage, reality has begun to undermine it. Millions of Americans are already beginning to realize that the Republicans’ description of what would happen may have been more accurate than what they were hearing from Mr. Schumer and his friends in the press.

Obamacare became an albatross around the necks of Democrats in years past because they over-hyped its benefits, the media trumpeted them and it couldn’t live up to the hype. Now, a Republican tax bill seems to be exceeding expectations and getting more popular in reality than described.

The result: public approval of the tax changes is inching up. Today, according to The Wall Street Journal, public support has increased by a full 10 percent since its passage and is expected to continue climbing as more and more taxpayers see the benefits of a cut they were told they would never get.

Indeed, the tax bill that was going to prove such a disaster is now more popular than the president who helped deliver it, but his approval rating is also beginning to inch up.

This reality is not simply undermining the Schumer narrative, but getting media attention from journalistic outlets belatedly concerned about reestablishing their credibility.

Mr. Trump has a long way to go, but if the economy keeps improving and reality undermines the criticism of what he has accomplished if not of his peculiar style, Democrats standing around to benefit from a wave election this fall may well be as disappointed as they were when the votes were counted in 2016.

David A. Keene is an editor at large at The Washington Times.

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