While I was working yesterday, I was listening to the NBA playoffs in the background. Suffice it to say that my team wasn’t exactly winning. By early in the fourth quarter, I knew the game was over. It wasn’t just the lopsided score. It was the manner in which my team was unraveling. At one point even the announcer acknowledged that my team’s effort was a “disaster.” But then he quickly added that there was plenty of time left. This got me thinking about the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.
The announcer’s job, you see, is to get you to stay tuned in all the way to the end. If you turn the game off early, there go the ratings and the revenue. The most reliable way to keep you tuned in is to make you think there’s still a question about who’s going to ultimately win or lose. It’s why, even as the deck has become so stacked against Trump in recent months that anyone with sufficient knowledge of the circumstances can logically see which way this is going to end up going, those without that knowledge are inclined to just take the announcer’s word for it.
In political scandals, the “announcers” are the mainstream media. They can’t just admit to you that they know the outcome is no longer really in doubt – particularly those who work in infotainment environments like cable news. Fox News doesn’t want to admit Trump is toast because its viewers don’t want to hear it. But CNN and MSNBC don’t want to admit it either, because their viewers will breathe a sigh of relief and go watch basketball instead.
Of course there’s a point late in every game where even the announcer has to admit the outcome is no longer in doubt, in order to retain a baseline of credibility. That’s why it mattered this week when various major print and online news outlets began talking about the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. It’ll matter even more when the CNN and MSNBC hosts begin acknowledging the same, because that’s when even people with the least understanding of what’s going on will figure it out as well. That’s the death knell we’re now waiting for.