Extreme times call for extreme measures, but the Beltway press just isn't willing to make that move in the Trump era. As a consequence, the news media fail to accurately capture the radical changes now underway in the country, and how today's Republican Party has become purposefully untethered from reality.
Donald Trump remains a resolutely radical player who has eviscerated decades of protocols and traditions. Yet so much of the press refuses to cover him that way, opting instead to cling to Beltway traditions for how presidents are normally covered (i.e. We can't call him a liar!). But as the high-profile impeachment hearings confirm (along with Trump's recent disastrous and embarrassing trip to the NATO summit), new and bolder language is needed to accurately describe what's transpiring.
Under Trump, we're all in uncharted territories, and that includes the press. We have never had a major political party in this country, for instance, that openly condones seeking help from foreign powers in order to win domestic elections, the way Republicans now do. We've never had a political party that essentially absolves the president of the United States of all crimes and misdemeanors, simply because he has an 'R' next to his name. Meaning: The press has never before faced the challenge of how to cover and describe what was once a mainstream political party but has since evolved into a deeply radical one. For now, much of the news media is simply pretending that historic GOP shift hasn't taken place, and therefore there's no need to dramatically adjust the coverage.
But it has, and there is.
The media's stubborn failure to adjust is now advertised daily. For instance, last week CNN's John King and a roundtable of Beltway pundits expressed complete shock at a new poll that found 53% of Republicans said that Donald Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln was. If those pundits had closely followed the radical evolution of the GOP in recent years and been honest with news consumers about its descent into cult worship, there's simply no way they would be utterly bewildered at Republicans' belief today that Trump's a better president than Lincoln. But if you've strained mightily to pretend Democrats and Republicans are mirror opposites of each other and advocate equally mainstream, fact-based positions, than yes, you'd be shocked by the Lincoln finding.
It's the same reason that the percentage share of Republicans who say presidents could operate more effectively if they didn't have to worry about Congress and the courts increased 16 percentage points over the past year, according to the Pew Research Center.
And that's the challenge for the press: How to describe this unprecedented political movement.