Laura Ingraham

Llewellyn King: Left should start trying to influence Trump, via television

Through the nation and across the world the liberals, the centrists, the traditionalists and the orthodox are in shock: Donald J. Trump will be America's 45th president and they don’t like that one bit, or like him at all.

I have some advice for those who are beating their breasts and crying, “The sky is falling!”: Get over it, and get to work.

Trump is the man. Those who fear his changes ought to start using the man’s own tool: leverage.

According to The Washington Post's Robert Costa, who covered Trump's presidential campaign, and interviewed him again last week, the president has no particular ideology. But he gets ideas from Steve Bannon, his senior counselor and chief White House strategist.

The forces opposed to Trump would do better to focus their fire on Bannon. Criticize him, even ridicule and revile him, but endeavor to get the message straight to Trump.

How can one direct invective at those around Trump, but speak to him directly?

The tool for reaching Trump is television.

Television is a medium associated with mass communication, but now it has a chance of being a medium of singular communication: the way to whisper in the president’s ear in plain sight.

Trump told Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, that he gets his information from “the shows like yours.” Trump’s early Cabinet appointments show the veracity of this: What he knows, how he thinks and how he'll act is influenced by what he sees on television much more than by learned discourse in the press. Trump tweets because what he has to say fits in the written equivalent of a sound bite.

Trump is a creature of television, and it's a two-way street for him: He loves being on it and gets his information from it. That's why he appoints people who he's seen on television. He appointed Monica Crowley as senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, but she has relinquished the post amid a plagiarism scandal. Reportedly he was considering Laura Ingraham for White House press secretary. Both are television chirpers.

If you want money to build a new nuclear reactor, more funding for the National Institutes of Health to do research on a certain disease, or if you want to change the fortunes of a small country, take your message to television.

This means the political communications machine needs retooling.

You cannot persuade Trump with dense arguments in journals of opinion. Instead, you must persuade him with easily grasped ideas that will make their way onto television -- especially onto the Sunday morning talk shows.

Fox has the edge with Trump, which makes the sale of some ideas more difficult. But he's open to a catchy concept; something that he can rework into a slogan of his own, while his administration incorporates it into policy.

The other route to Trump are his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner. Liberals should stop whining about their having a role in the White House. Let them have it. It’s a good thing – and an excellent thing for these times.

Even though they've been shielded by wealth from many of the realities of life, they can't be totally immune to what their generation thinks and says. They are in their middle thirties; Trump is 70. That's important. It wouldn't be so if they didn’t get a hearing from Trump. But he relies on them, uses them as sounding board. They could be of value in balancing what Trump hears from Bannon and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Only a child can say to a parent, a parent who dotes on that child, “You’re full of it.”

That’s what everyone needs to hear sometimes, and Trump especially. Bring them on!

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle on PBS. His e-mail is


Richard J. Eskow: What Democrats can learn from Cantor's defeat


Cartoon by KALIB BENDIB for

David Brat, the man who unexpectedly defeated Eric Cantor in a recent Republican primary, is an ideologue. That should be a source of encouragement for candidates on the populist left — but not for the reasons that you might think.

Brat is a professor whose college chair is endowed with libertarian money and ran a campaign rife with Tea Party slogans. Yet it would be wrong to minimize Brat’s victory, as Hillary Clinton did, as solely the result of his across-the-board opposition to immigration reform. That theory deflects attention from the populist side of Brat’s campaign, thereby minimizing a movement that presents a potential threat to Clinton and a number of other Democrats.

Brat made Cantor’s Wall Street ties a key campaign theme by tapping into a frustration with corrupt Washington politics that spans the political spectrum. “I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits,” Brat declared on the campaign trail. “But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.”

It’s no wonder that reporter Ryan Lizza described Brat in The New Yorker as “the Elizabeth Warren of the right.” When Brat says “the Republican Party has been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and not enough attention to Main Street,” he echoes the Massachusetts senator’s theme that “the system is rigged for powerful interests and against working families” — and the argument that progressive Democrats are making about their party’s dominant wing.

That’s why Brat’s candidacy doesn’t belong in the standard Tea Party basket. Cantor more closely fit this mold, with his fiery Tea Party-like rhetoric belying the fact that he was very much part of the Beltway elite, a Republican apparatchik, and a friend of the corporate class.

When Brat called Cantor out — “the crooks up on Wall Street and some of the big banks…they didn’t go to jail. They are on Eric’s Rolodex” — the underdog garnered enough votes to win a race against a top dog.

His mix of messages comes as no a surprise to people such as me who track polling data on economic issues. It’s been clear for years that anti-corporate populism appeals to voters across the political spectrum.

Inside-the-Beltway consensus thinking tends to dismiss voices on both the left and the right as unimportant to the political process. The mythical “truly undecided centrist voter” — that legendary creature situated precisely halfway between the Republican and Democratic parties on key issues — has led the political class to ignore the electoral power of ideological voices.

Many Democrats are making the mistake of embracing the same pro-corporate positions as their Republican opponents while losing touch with what’s happening back at home.

Far-right media personalities, including Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, gave Brat a tremendous leg up among conservative-populist true believers, stoking their enthusiasm and fueling both organizational efforts and turnout.

The left has its voices, too, and insurgent Democratic politicians shouldn’t be reluctant to rely on them just because they’re afraid that the “in crowd” in Washington will marginalize them. As Brat’s victory shows, distancing yourself from the in crowd can pay off.

Ideology has gotten a bad name from members of both parties who would rather push a Washington-corporate consensus than have a real debate on the issues and principles that should drive our nation’s decision-making.

What will happen if Republicans like Brat, with their anti-immigrant populism, face off against Democrats like Elizabeth Warren imbued with a populism grounded in economic justice? We might finally have a real debate about how to break the corporate stranglehold on politics and the economy.

Richard J. Eskow is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and the host of "The Zero Hour'', a nationally syndicated radio show. He wrote this for