In the past several weeks, Donald Trump has surged in the polls to become the leading Republican candidate for president in 2016 despite making incendiary statements widely regarded as “unpresidential”. What explains this? Analysts are flooding the media with a variety of explanations, but few point to the major failure of mainstream journalism to question the radical positions Trump and other political leaders have expressed for many years.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne hints at this in his amusing “Trump has the GOP establishment’s number”, describing how the party “created the rough beast it is now trying to slay.” Few Republican leaders bothered to challenge Trump when he repeatedly questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy to be president because he would not reveal an “authentic” birth certificate. Poll results in 2014 show two-thirds of Republican voters believe either a) President Obama definitely was born outside the US, or b) possibly was.

Something is amiss when these realities are barely referenced. In the view of Media Matters analyst Eric Boehlert, mainstream journalists repeatedly report how polarized political debate has become without making clear how far to the right of center the Republican party has steadily moved for decades. Historian Heather Cox Richardson traces this theme comprehensively back to the 1950s. Such views appear in alternative media but rarely reach the broader public, in large measure because commercial media dominate our political discourse while public media remain marginal in both reach and impact. Go here and here for more evidence of this.