I was listening to a Dax Shepard podcast last year — I think he was talking to Jon Favreau (the politics guy, not the movie guy) — and he said something that I still think about sometimes. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was: What is the point of writing about Trump anymore? People have already made up their mind about the guy. Why provide so much editorial coverage, because you’re not moving any needles. People hate him, or they don’t, and five stories or 100 stories, it doesn’t make a difference. How many ways can you say he is horrible?
It’s a valid point. Probably, a lot of people believe we trash Trump for the page views, for the hate clicks. It wasn’t true, but it could have been true during the 2016 campaign and probably the first nine months of his Presidency, when those posts were heavily trafficked by readers, I think, who just didn’t want to feel alone in their hatred of Donald Trump.
Now? Yeah, we don’t do it for the page views. Here’s a little inside baseball on a site like ours: We get traffic from basically three sources: Our regular readers, search engines and social media. It used to be that we got about a third of our traffic from each of those sources, and there was a lot of overlap between social media and regular readers. But Facebook turned off the spigot for publishers so that you guys could enjoy more pictures of your neighbors’ kids and memes and your uncle’s racist rants. At this point, we barely even bother with Facebook: We post there maybe once or twice a day and sometimes I go days without doing so. Those posts just don’t get picked up in your feeds. So, now it’s more like 40 percent regular readers, 10 percent social media, and 50 percent Google.
In that sort of traffic ecosystem, unless there’s a huge political story, there’s not a lot of traffic in it for us. From a pure traffic standpoint, it literally pays more to recap an episode of NBC’s terrible Manifest, which gets a ton of traffic from search engines, but relatively little here, and only a handful of comments, mostly to the effect of, “Why are you doing this?!” (For the ad revenue, y’all!)
TV, movies, celebrity and, uh, social media scandals and especially book publishing scandals is honestly where we perform the best, as far as page views go (meanwhile, some topics, like Meghan McCain, are three-quadrant hits!). A Trump post might do OK if he really steps in it, or if someone gets fired, but day-to-day? We’d be better off mining tweets from one of the Chrisses or running a movie trailer.
So, why do we even bother, especially knowing that we’re not moving any needles? There is not a single regular reader here who is debating about whether or not to vote for Trump, and our political coverage cannot compete on search engines with the NYTimes or The Washington Post or Politico or Axios. So, we’re only reaching at most 40 percent of our potential traffic with a political post. But I think the reason we keep going is 1) inertia, 2) a passion for politics, and 3) more importantly, so that — at least with our little bubble — the actions of this Presidency are never normalized.
To wit: Yesterday, The Office of the Special Counsel found that Kellyanne Conway had violated the Hatch Act — disparaging Democrats in her official capacity as what should be a non-partisan White House advisor — so many times that it literally recommended that she be fired.
That never happens. Violations of the Hatch Act are rare; recommending disciplinary action is even rarer. Recommending termination is unheard of. This is not normal. It may not seem like it anymore, but those working in an official capacity for the federal government are required to serve all the people, and not just those in their party. Kellyanne Conway has violated that rule so many times that the Office of Special Counsel was like, “F**k it. This lady needs to be fired.”
And it’s not like the guy who heads the Office of Special Counsel is an Obama lefty. He was nominated by Trump. He previously worked for Republican California Rep. Darrell Issa and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, two of the more conservative Republicans. And he recommended that a White House advisor be fired, a first for the Office of Special Counsel.
That is not normal.
But is Trump going to heed the advice of the Office of Special Counsel? Oh god no. Are you kidding me?
Trump tells Fox that he will not fire Kellyanne Conway over her Hatch Act violations.— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 14, 2019
"They have tried to take away her speech. And I think you're entitled to free speech in this country."
Unfortunately, that’s where the matter likely ends. If the President doesn’t do anything, then nothing happens, which effectively renders the Office of Special Counsel as useless under this Presidency.
Meanwhile, yesterday, Trump also said out loud that he would accept foreign help in the 2020 election. He admitted IN PUBLIC that he would commit a felony to win re-election.
EXCLUSIVE: Pres. Trump tells @GStephanopoulos he wouldn't necessarily alert the FBI if approached by foreign figures with information on his 2020 opponent: "It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it." https://t.co/7gvoAViw9r pic.twitter.com/k5Yqd9YxdC— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) June 12, 2019
Even Republicans began to distance themselves from that statement.
Sen. Tillis on what he would do if he got oppo from a foreign government: “my first call would be to the FBI”— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) June 13, 2019
Senator Joni Ernst, R of IA, on Trump’s openness to accepting foreign assistance:— Nicholas Fandos (@npfandos) June 13, 2019
“I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t accept material like that.”
The president says politicians do it all the time.
“No we don’t. Let’s stop there, no we don’t!”
Susan Collins: “If a federal official or a federal candidate for high public office is contacted by a hostile foreign power with an offer of information or assistance, the proper response is to call the FBI. I would hope the President would listen to the advice of” Chris Wray— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 13, 2019
>@LindseyGrahamSC: " I believe that it should be practice for all public officials who are contacted by a foreign government with an offer of assistance to their campaign - either directly or indirectly - to inform the FBI and reject the offer."— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) June 13, 2019
That’s not normal! You know what else is not normal? The Federal Election Commission feeling that it is necessary to make a statement refuting the goddamn President of the United States:
After the President suggests he might break the law, the Federal Election Commission reminds the world that breaking the law is in fact illegal.— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) June 14, 2019
No word yet from the Justice Department. https://t.co/emHGcYwIlz
This is SO not normal that Trump’s statement in and of itself is an impeachable offense, if this were any other President.
.@DavidJollyFL says Trump's comments that he'd accept political dirt from a foreign power in the next election are an "impeachable moment."— 11th Hour (@11thHour) June 13, 2019
Learn more: https://t.co/RHvNIocmn0#11MSNBC #11thHour pic.twitter.com/t0ZDb6f49y
Trump at least realized he’d stepped in it and sort of kind of tried to backtrack but not really.
Trump on foreign dirt: "Of course you have to look at it because, if you don't look at it, you're not going to know if it's bad. How are you going to know if it's bad?"— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 14, 2019
Via Fox pic.twitter.com/e0e3JoAvbd
Anyway, tl;dr: This is why we continue to write about Trump, to remind you that none of this is OK, because if we — and the rest of the media — didn’t remind you that it wasn’t OK, you might begin to believe that it was, because no one was saying otherwise. If these were normal times, Kellyanne Conway would have been fired, and Donald Trump should be impeached. Full stop.