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The media's 5 stages of grief over Donald Trump

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06:  Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06: Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

A new Bloomberg poll shows Donald Trump dominating the GOP field with 21 percent of the vote — more than twice what Jeb Bush is pulling in, and 21 times Bobby Jindal's support. Poor Bobby Jindal.

The crosstabs aren't online, but Bloomberg's Joshua Green has them, and he's been tweeting out some of the findings. The main takeaway? Trump's support is growing among all factions of the Republican Party. The idea that his supporters are a single kind of Republican — an angry, but marginalized, group — increasingly seems wrong.

Media coverage of Trump's campaign has been going through something akin to the five stages of grief (though, given what a fun story Trump is to cover, there's a heavy dose of delight, too).

Denial: Coverage of Trump began with denial that his campaign was real. Initially, few thought he would actually run — after all, he had threatened to run for president before, and he had decided against running for president before. The going theory was Trump couldn't bear to file his financial disclosure forms, as that would show his fortune was far less than he estimated.

And then, of course, Trump ran, and he filed financial disclosure forms estimating his fortune at over "TEN BILLION DOLLARS," and the caps lock is in the original, as if Trump was literally saying it in a Dr. Evil voice.

Anger: Denial was followed by anger. Anger at his noxious comments about immigrants, at his scurrilous attacks on John McCain's war record, and on the general grotesqueness of his public persona. And anger, of course, that it all seemed to be working. In this phase, the media deigned to cover him, but only in the most condescending ways possible. The Huffington Post, for instance, made it official policy to tag all Trump coverage "Entertainment" rather than "Politics."

Bargaining: The next phase was  — and to some degree, still is — bargaining, which has taken the form of continually explaining that even though all signs suggest Trump's campaign is going gangbusters, it's still a ridiculous and doomed enterprise. The bargaining coverage of Trump mostly focuses on which more serious candidates will be hurt most by his rise. Will it be Scott Walker who loses support, and thus Jeb Bush who benefits? Or vice versa? The compromise here is to cover Trump — even to cover him respectfully — but to cover him as a phenomenon rather than a frontrunner.

Depression: Coexisting with bargaining is depression. There's a lot of coverage about what Trump's campaign says about the state of the American electorate. For instance, David Brooks writes in today's New York Times that Trump's rise shows this to be a moment of "scarcity and alienation," wherein "the cultural elites start feuding with the financial elites" and "the lower middle class starts feuding with the poor."

Acceptance: Finally, there's more and more coverage of Trump that simply accepts him as a political force and tries to figure out what he means. Trump really will be in the first debate. He really is drawing support from a large swath of the Republican Party. The overwhelmingly negative coverage of him really does seem to be fueling his rise (Andrew Prokop has a great piece on the symbiotic relationship between Donald Trump and the media). And there might genuinely be something real there:

Personally, I don't think Trump will win the Republican nomination. But if I thought his victory was a functional impossibility before, I don't think so now. Unlikely, sure. Impossible, absolutely not. I would never have guessed that Trump would be so decisively stomping Republican stars like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal on the eve of the first debate.

It's time to accept that Trump is tapping into something real, and that his campaign, and the feelings it evokes in his supporters, needs to be taken seriously.

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