The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos on Tuesday as education secretary, approving the embattled nominee only with the help of a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools.
Two Republicans voted against Ms. DeVos’s confirmation, a sign that some members of President Trump’s party are willing to go against him, possibly foreshadowing difficulty on some of the president’s more contentious legislative priorities.
It was the first time that a vice president has been summoned to the Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination, according to the Senate historian. Taking the gavel as the vote deadlocked at 50-50, Mr. Pence, a former member of the House, declared his vote for Ms. DeVos before announcing that Mr. Trump’s nominee for education secretary had been confirmed.
[…] Mr. Trump understands that attacking the media is the reddest of meat for his base, which has been conditioned to reject reporting from news sites outside of the conservative media ecosystem.
For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined. The cumulative effect of the attacks was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.
The news media’s spectacular failure to get the election right has made it only easier for many conservatives to ignore anything that happens outside the right’s bubble and for the Trump White House to fabricate facts with little fear of alienating its base.
Unfortunately, that also means that the more the fact-based media tries to debunk the president’s falsehoods, the further it will entrench the battle lines.
[…] Trump is not universally unpopular. Indeed, he has maintained the support of roughly the same number of people who voted for him. News stories about his followers depict people impressed with his unwillingness to reach out to his political opponents because they believe they were treated with massive disrespect for eight years by former president Barack Obama. They appreciate that Trump is doing to Democrats what they believe was done to them.
One can certainly argue whether Obama ever treated them with anything approaching the level of disdain that Trump displays toward people who oppose him. But that’s missing the point. That sense of persecution has been part of the conservative movement for decades. What’s different now is the extent to which Trump’s followers see a completely different presidency than the rest of the world sees. That’s because they are watching, reading or listening to right-wing media — and right-wing media is showing them a presidency that does not exist.
Former conservative talk-radio show host Charlie Sykes wrote a courageous op-ed for The New York Times over the past weekend that took a hard look at how so many people came to believe Trump’s lies and why they are so willing to accept what presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway has called “alternative facts.” Sykes put the blame squarely on the right-wing propaganda machine, which he was a part of for many years.
The 2016 presidential election led to international debates about filter bubbles and the spread of misinformation, with many analyzing how the proliferation of fabricated content may have helped Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
But Trump’s chaotic first weeks in office – filled with a steady stream of astonishing news developments that have rattled progressives – has laid the groundwork for what could be a significant uptick in fake news, misleading articles and propaganda with a distinctly liberal bent.
“Whoever is in power is going to be the target [of fake news],” said Eugene Kiely, director of FactCheck.org, which is partnering with Facebook to help identify false news stories.
Research has suggested that there was a huge volume of fake news across the political spectrum during the election, but that pro-Trump false stories were much more widespread than pro-Clinton ones. Some of the most high-profile examples, such as the conspiracy theory that Clinton was tied to a child sex ring, fed rightwing narratives.
Media and communications experts suspect those dynamics could shift under Trump. In an interview with the Atlantic, Brooke Binkowski, managing editor of the fact-checking site Snopes, said she had seen a spike in the amount and popularity of fake news directed toward liberal audiences.