White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Since Trump’s announced pull-out from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, I’ve seen two main narratives. From the left: “He’s a coward afraid to face the press.” From the right: “He’s standing up to fake media.”

Neither of these is a good representation of reality. Let’s remember what really happened.

Before Trump cancelled, a lot of news organizations and individual reporters had already pulled out. No celebs had announced they were coming. Comedians were hemming and hawing about whether they’d accept if offered the gig. Bloomberg and Vanity Fair cancelled their usual pre-party. Samantha Bee invited everybody to a different party across town at the same time as the dinner.

What Trump opted out of was showing up to a conspicuously empty room. It’s the equivalent of me declaring I’m skipping school tomorrow when tomorrow is a snow day.

Why is that important? Because it’s another signal that protest works, just like the low attendance at his inauguration did, and the low viewer numbers, and Ivanka’s line being dropped because of poor sales.

Although this administration doesn’t seem to care about doing the things that would actually protect and support us, the president himself wants very much to be liked, or to give off the image of being liked, no matter what he does. Not to get all armchair psychiastrist, but these could even be linked: prove how much you love me by loving me even after I hurt you. Most of us have run into that – most of us have done that – occasionally, at a lower level, with lower stakes.

Showing up for demonstrations matters. And not showing up for celebrations also matters.

So keep picking on Trump for cancelling the party instead of trying to reach out and build bridges – for throwing a little kid fit when the adults said no. (“Fine! I didn’t want to throw that party anyway!”) But don’t forget that he’s reacting to something – something he cares about, something outside his control.