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America not only rejected the political establishment, it rejected the media

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

By one count, only 19 newspapers in the United States supported Donald Trump for the presidency.

The only one you ever heard of was the National Enquirer. All the rest were small papers with questionable influence, including The Crusader, official newspaper of the Ku Klux Klan.

So what did they know that the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times missed? Hillary Clinton was endorsed by 243 newspapers, including all of the most important ones.

There is no question that the election of President Donald Trump reflects a backlash against America's elite institutions, and the news media must bear their fair burden for being so far out of touch that they didn't see it coming.

Almost no one did. The major opinion polls also got it wrong. All of them predicted a Clinton victory. The major election forecasting models got it wrong. The professionals who worked for both major political parties got it wrong.

The only ones to get it right were the amateurs, including filmmaker Michael Moore and a search engine.

It's fashionable to blame the Internet for contributing to the post-factual society, but Google Trends analyzed not what its customers said but where they were clicking and converted it to potential Electoral College votes. The results were eerily similar to what actually happened: Google predicted:

Donald Trump: 309
Hillary Clinton: 229

And Moore, who identifies with the white blue-collar voters he feels have been dispossessed by the System, said in the summer that "Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full-time sociopath is going to be our next president." He predicted Tuesday's vote was going to be the "biggest 'fuck you' in human history."

Why did this happen?

The Trump-supporting Bowling Green Daily News in Kentucky shone the spotlight on the central issue in the election better than most. "Trump wears the crass label while Clinton carries the corrupt label," the newspaper said. "Given what we believe is at risk in this election, including the erosion of our individual liberties by an overreaching government and the rule of law, we believe that crass trumps corrupt by a wide margin."

Some might call it the "clean house" syndrome. History shows that it's been difficult for any party to hold the presidency for more than two terms in recent decades. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman's combined five terms from 1933 to 1952, it's only happened once, with the Reagan-Bush administrations of 1981 to 1992.

In this "fuck you" campaign, it's possible that voters saw newspapers endorsing candidates as just another sign of the Establishment trampling out popular voices. Eight years ago, when Barak Obama was first elected, the Pew Research Center did an opinion poll that showed just 14 per cent of Americans said a local newspaper endorsement could make them more likely to vote for a presidential candidate. The same percentage said an endorsement could make them less likely to vote for a candidate. Sixty-nine per cent said it made no difference.

It's very probable that Trump's election win verifies what recent opinion polls have shown -- that confidence in America's major institutions continues to lag below historical averages. Two institutions -- newspapers and television news -- dropped to record lows this year of 20 per cent. The overall average of Americans expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in 14 institutions is below 33 percent for the third straight year, says Gallup.

Another trend may be at work too. One of Trump's supporters, British politician Nigel Farage, predicted that he would benefit from the same nationalist backlash that caused Britain to vote to withdraw from the European Union. Farange said "I think Brexit is the first kickback against the establishment. It's not a British event, it's not a European event. It's a global event and I think it has implications for every Western democracy. In the case of America -- absolutely."

If so, it's important to know the people who say they stand closest to Trump and what they represent.

None of the living former U.S. presidents or presidential candidates endorsed him, but two former vice-presidents did, Republicans Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle. The only foreign heads of state who spoke in his favour were Hun Sen of Cambodia, Viktor Orban of Hungary and Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic. So did the leaders of three ultra-right, anti-immigrant parties, Jean-Marie LePen of France, Geert Wilders of Holland and Farage (Britain).

Trump was endorsed by institutions like the National Rifle Association, the Ku Klux Klan, the National Right to Life Committee and the Tea Party Patriots Fund.

Celebrities like Conrad Black, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and golfer Jack Nicklaus endorsed Trump, and he managed to grab the support of aging pornographic film stars Jenna Jameson and Brandy Love.

Cabinet material? Let's hope not.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

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