It will take a lot of backbone—Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis-level backbone—but Republicans can break the still-too-powerful influence of the legacy corporate media. It’s a gamble, but one worth taking. Fact is, most Republicans do not need the mainstream media to win elections. For many of them, the media offers more downside than upside.
First we should recognize that legacy media are Democratic operatives, and therefore we have to treat reporters, nationally and locally, as the opposition. Republicans should simply decline to participate in their partisan attacks. How many times do Republicans need to be burned and voters lied to before realizing they need to ignore the media to neuter it? At some point, it’s Charlie Brown’s fault for playing with Lucy.
Nationally, there are friendly media outlets that Republicans can talk to, leak information to, and create reporter relationships with. This both helps Republican candidates avoid the opposition media and builds up an alternative mediasphere. If Republicans prove they can win with this formula, the corporate media, in a few election cycles, becomes relegated to just leftists for political coverage.
It will be impossible for people to not take notice. But is it possible to do?
Yes, in a general election. And we know it: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is essentially following this path and taking the risk alone. He has spent more than four years completely icing out the Florida media—to their delightful shrieks and howls. Even now, in the midst of a rapidly heating up GOP primary, he continues to ignore the media.
DeSantis has already proven the worth of this strategy in Florida, the third-largest, most diverse state in the union with still powerful media outlets in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and elsewhere. After telling legacy media to pound sand for four years, he went from a 2018 gubernatorial win of a fraction of a percent, to winning by 19 points four years later in a state with roughly equal voter registration. No media needed.
Unfortunately, old-school consultants, many conservative talking heads, and far too many fearful Republicans still don’t see this. They need to catch up.
As I wrote in American Greatness recently:
The old-school, former mainstream media has been completely unmasked as the propagandist arm of the Democratic Party and allied statist interests . . . GOP candidates still trying to play nice and grant interviews to CNN, ABC/CBS/NBC, NPR, the New York Times, Washington Post, or the rest of the compendium of nefarious outlets are just out of touch with the new rules. They will be screwed by those outlets, and more importantly, they don’t need them.
Here’s what I tell my political clients: Whenever possible, ignore the legacy media in editable situations—those dealing with newspapers, online written content and all TV that is pre-produced. Those situations allow reporters to pick and choose out-of-context comments and paint a negative picture. A short written statement often works, as long as that is all that is provided.
The only time to engage the corporate media is in live, uneditable situations where the candidate’s team is also taping the entire interview for later use. If that’s the option the candidate chooses, often in a press conference-type scenario, he had better be prepared because the interviewer is almost assuredly voting for the Democrat. This is a strong route in a General Election, and I think the concept is now a slam dunk for most candidates in most jurisdictions.
But what about primaries, when it’s Republican versus Republican? If we look at the GOP presidential primary as essentially a two-man race—and even setting polls aside, there really are only two candidates who have proven willing to fight the status quo and special interests on behalf of the people—then we also have a litmus test for whether this can work in a primary.
DeSantis has remained largely quiet during the Florida legislative session, which has undoubtedly hurt him in the polls. That session ends this week and DeSantis will then announce his exploratory committee in a few weeks. Knowing him and his tight, loyal team, I do not expect anything to change regarding the media.
However, while President Trump routinely and rightly bashes the opposition media, he also grants them a lot of interviews and even leaks through them. (Think of his love-hate relationship with the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman.) He has been repeatedly burned in those interviews but will continue using them. The media hate both men, but their ratings soar with Trump, and DeSantis essentially tells them they are irrelevant. They will do everything possible to see DeSantis defeated and prove him wrong.
The coming months will be telling. DeSantis is obviously the underdog in many ways. But if he can make up the distance and at least turn the primary into a close race, it would be a data point that, even in GOP primaries, stiff-arming the media can work.
If other Republicans follow this route in their general election in 2024, they might finally show that they don’t need the opposition corporate media to get elected. The implications are huge, not least of which by allowing the nation to get a fairer view of Republican candidates without the partisan media hacking every narrative for the Democrats.