Is there any part of Donald Trump’s complaint about the election being “rigged” against him that isn’t a conspiracy theory, which should be dismissed out of hand? Yes. While the notion of election fraud in plain sight on the scale needed to change the outcome is science fiction, Trump is merely stating the obvious when he observes that most of the mainstream media is against him.

We really didn’t need the Center for Public Integrity’s study of how journalists have showered Hillary Clinton with campaign contributions by a 27-1 margin over the few who have given to Trump or the Harvard University study about how negative coverage of the billionaire has been to know this. Liberals have dominated the press for generations. But the question we should be asking is what this advantage actually provides Clinton or any Democrat? The answer is that, while it certainly helps them, it has never taken a race away from a Republican who had a real chance to win.

But while Trump isn’t wrong about the media giving him a hard time, the idea that without the “assault” on him, he’d be—according to Newt Gingrich—up by 15 points is ridiculous for two reasons.

The first is that the massive negative coverage of the GOP candidate is the result of his own statements, not a plot by “20 media executives.” Even if they cover his disqualifying behavior more thoroughly than they do embarrassing Wikileaks stories about Clinton or the associated email and foundation scandals, reporting on the things that Trump says and does is not foul play. It’s true he’d be doing better if no one knew about the tape in which he boasted of sexual assaults, the women who have accused him of misbehavior, or his Twitter tirades or comments about Mexicans or a Gold Star family. How can you blame the media when Trump doesn’t stop talking about them?

The second reason is that the same media he regularly denounces largely facilitated Trump’s domination of the Republican primary field. No other candidate got the kind of wall-to-wall coverage he received. Last winter and spring, the conventional wisdom about the race was that Trump was a master manipulator of the networks, which slavishly broadcast his speeches and devoted more attention to him than any of his rivals in the hope of better ratings. Many conservatives correctly warned that his enablers would turn on him in the general election. But for all of Trump’s outsider appeal, which resonated with the GOP base, his ascent would not have been possible if the same people he now bashes had ignored or dismissed him as an outlier clown rather than treat him as must-see TV.

There’s a broader point to be made about the impact of media bias. It’s that the liberal press has never defeated a strong Republican candidate with broad support. The mainstream press was just as if not more prejudiced against Ronald Reagan than it is againstTrump. In the 1980s, there was no conservative talk radio or Fox News alternatives to the daily newspapers and broadcast networks dominated by liberals. Yet that didn’t prevent Reagan from winning two landslides or being succeeded by his vice president. The liberal media has never been able to prevent the GOP from winning midterm elections during the last 25 years. Nor did a liberal media that despised George W. Bush preclude him from decisively winning re-election in 2004.

The inability of the liberal press to determine the outcome of elections isn’t limited to the United States. Britain’s media tilts just as much to the left as America’s, but it didn’t stop Margaret Thatcher. It was also powerless to prevent the Tories’ David Cameron from winning the last two parliamentary elections or stopping the “Yes” side from winning the Brexit vote. Israel’s news media may be even more left wing than that of America (there is one popular pro-Netanyahu newspaper but no Fox-style broadcast outlet with a large audience) and the left hasn’t won an election there in 24 years.

If the polls show Trump is losing, it’s because the voters don’t trust him; not because they’re taking orders or are unduly influenced by liberal journalists. That’s nothing new. Democrats benefit from a liberal mainstream media and it is an obstacle that any Republican or conservative must overcome. But there is simply no example in modern American political history (or that of other democracies) in which a left-wing press demonstrated that it had the power to stop a popular conservative from winning an election. What it can do is to apply the coup-de-grace to right-wingers who have self-inflicted wounds such as those provided by Trump. If, as appears likely, Trump is headed for a decisive defeat, the media may cheer, but he has only himself to blame.

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