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How Trump and Hannity are hurting the Republican Party

The relationship between Donald Trump and the Republican-aligned media is symbiotic — and dysfunctional, at least for the Republican Party.

Trump had a bad day on Wednesday as New York state sued him for inflating the value of his properties and a federal appeals court convicted him in his battle with the feds over his possession of classified documents. So what did the former president do? He went on Sean Hannity’s prime time show on Fox News to complain. He had a completely bizarre rant about, among other things, how he could declassify things while he was president just by thinking about it (uh, no) and his even goofier theory that the FBI might have been looking for the e- Hillary Clinton emails to Mar-a-Lago.

What Fox News gets out of all of this is clear: viewers. What Trump gets out of it is also clear: the attention he needs, which also helps him remain the nation’s most prominent Republican — which boosts his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. he wishes.

What the Republican Party gets out of it is… well, nothing good. For starters, increasing the odds of a candidate who may well end up under federal indictment and who remains unpopular except with the most intense Republican voters (and, given his many scandals, should remain so), does not help the party. Most of the time, when its candidate loses a presidential election, a political party moves on – and that’s with a candidate spared from scandal.

As for the long-term effects on the party and its constituents – well, that’s not good either. Consider what Republican-aligned media — not just Fox News, but other TV, radio, and online media outlets — are teaching Republican voters. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post noted after watching Trump’s performance on Hannity, what viewers experience is “the hermetically sealed universe of Fox News, where the actual legal arguments against him were treated as if they just didn’t exist.”

But the worst effects may be on Republican politicians. The lesson they draw from this is that within the party, everything is permitted. They don’t need to come up with solid arguments to defend themselves or their ideas – they can just say anything, and the party-aligned media will treat it like it’s brilliant. They also learn that, especially on Fox News, it is dangerous to speak out against even very obvious wrongdoing by anyone in the party.

(The exception that proves the rule was the case of Madison Cawthorn, the young House Republican whom Fox News turned on — and later lost her primary.)

The problem arises when this closed information loop collides with the rest of the world. For Trump, this collision takes place in the justice system, which is unimpressed with its bluff and bluster.

For the Republican Party, however, the problem manifests itself in the form of a historically poor candidate crop. Just this week, two Republican House candidates ran into trouble, one for campaigning on a supposedly fictitious combat experience in Afghanistan.

As political scientist Brendan Nyhan points out, this is an expected consequence of appointing inexperienced candidates. But it’s more than that: it’s what happens when one of the core beliefs of a political party is that nothing matters – not just experience, but politics and maybe even the truth itself. If so, not only are qualifications irrelevant, but so are political positions that are unpopular with swing voters.

It’s hard to say how much all of this will matter in November, but it certainly jeopardizes what should be a great year for the party – with an unpopular Democratic president in power. The Senate and gubernatorial races are already more competitive than expected, and now it looks like the House is too.

Of course, ratings for Fox News and Republican-aligned talk radio will likely be higher if Democrats do well in November, as Trump and other Republicans take to the air to speak out against outrages. continued from President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress. This is what I call symbiotic.

For weekend reading, here are some of the best recent articles from political scientists:

• Here at Bloomberg Opinion, Dave Hopkins understands how passing legislation helps and doesn’t help Biden.

• Natalie Jackson on poll averages.

• Matt Grossmann discusses with Joshua Kalla and Kevin DeLuca how campaigns persuade voters.

• Caitlin Talmadge at Monkey Cage on Putin and the nuclear threat.

• Dan Drezner on Putin’s latest efforts.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and politics. A former political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion