There is an incredible coverage gap between Trump and every other issue in today's news media. An unscientific poll of the front pages of major news publications indicates that around half of major stories are, in some way, about Donald Trump. Consider the front page of NBC News, where mentions of Trump are highlighted:
NBC News' front page at 12:50 PM on January 6th, 2018.
It wasn't always this way. But the most famous man in the world now receives more major coverage than most other issues combined, and his activities have transformed average citizens into political junkies.
Perhaps this coverage gap is a sign that our fears of the normalization of Trump's activity are unfounded. If he still receives this much coverage, surely there still must be outrage—and where there is outrage there is readership. And not normalizing Trump is good.
Donald Trump receives no shortage of media coverage, and he creates value for news networks that cover him. Is this incentive structure dangerous? (Image: CNN).
Unfortunately, the adage "all press is good press" holds true, even today. While Trump hardly needs more coverage–after all, he already is the most famous person in the world—the media outrage plays a vital role in his public image. And Trump is more than willing to feed the media machine, even obliviously, by providing it with a constant stream of absurdity.
The coverage gap, while perhaps indicative that Trump is not considered the new normal, has a much darker effect: In the 2020 presidential election, Trump's opponents will be forced to scavenge for whatever coverage they can get. It will be an unfair fight, and the Democratic party might have difficulty rallying around a single candidate.
To win a presidential election, a candidate must be known by the public. Doug Jones, who received far less coverage than his child-molester opponent Roy Moore, won a special election for senate in Alabama. But perhaps his election was merely an anomaly aided by Moore's outlandish character and the fact that he had no serious opponents for the nomination. The presidency is an entirely different game.
In 2020, there will be the de-facto Republican nominee—presumably Trump—and a slew of Democratic candidates. If the coverage gap sustains itself until primary time, these Democratic candidates will be outside the media spotlight, and therefore the Democratic party base will not rally around any single one. The base will be shattered not out of difference of opinion, but out of a lack of exposure.
Of course, this is purely hypothetical. 2020 is a long time away, and the media landscape may very well change. But if coverage stays proportional for the next two and a half years, the Democratic party must adopt alternative tactics—true grassroots campaigning—to reach their base. Because Trump might otherwise flood them out.