Strange new respect: The media is coming around to Trump

As accolades go, the generous comments being directed at Trump aren’t grand, but you can feel them starting to gain momentum. Taken together they mark a slow swing from his status as a near-universal pariah to a devil with whom Republicans, at least, might be able to make a deal. In a Time cover story this week, David Von Drehle records top Republican Ed Rogers saying that “perhaps he wouldn’t be so bad” as president. Rick Scott, Florida’s Republican governor, commended Trump in a USA Today op-ed this week (“Donald Trump Has America’s Pulse”). Although Scott explicitly labeled his piece a non-endorsement, he extolled Trump as someone who has captured “the frustrations of many Americans after seven years” of Barack Obama’s presidency. He’s the sort of can-do guy who could trim the economic garden of burdensome regulations and taxes, Scott concluded.

Ben Carson’s former campaign manager, Barry Bennett, added a growth ring or two of respect to Trump this week by predicting he would win the nomination. Over the holidays, Republican strategist Curt Anderson extended backhanded respect to Trump in a piece he wrote for POLITICO by stating, “Trump is not the most self-absorbed Republican running for president—[Ted] Cruz is.” Anderson wrote, continuing: “Trump makes no effort to hide his narcissism. In that sense, Trump is oddly genuine.” Even Jeb Bush, who previously called Trump a “jerk,” just conceded at a New Hampshire campaign event that he admires the man’s rejection of political correctness…

As journalists and others begin to view as inevitable—or at least genuinely possible—a Trump victory at the Republican National Convention, we should expect a rise in Trump coverage that expresses strange new respect for him. A vestigial example of the genre appeared today in POLITICO. Titled “Donald Trump’s Big Tent,” the piece suggests Trump may be deserving of strange new respect because his “appeal has spread over seven months so far beyond a rabble-rousing, anti-establishment rump to encompass the very elements of the American electorate the GOP has been eager to reach.” Trump isn’t weird, the story implies. He’s the new normal.