This leads to a few conclusions. First, when analyzing “how Trump happened,” TV talking heads should be honest and acknowledge their unprecedented role. Second, it likely will not continue in the general election when Hillary Clinton’s aggressive campaign and the media’s natural bias will kick in, allocating a more even distribution of air time. Third, if not weighing in in favor of doing away with all campaign finance limits, this year’s cycle certainly speaks for allowing candidates additional leeway if an opponent convinces the media (however one would measure it) to collectively grant him an enormous advantage in air time. Fourth, it is not clear what if any pressure the Republican National Committee or other campaigns put on cable and TV news, but they should have raised complaints early and often. (Would this have made a difference? Probably not, but perhaps the media would have leveled the playing field with regard to call-in interviews.)
Democrats may find this all amusing, but they should be just as concerned and rethink their fixation with limiting third-party spending. Trump could easily have run as a Democrat, and other media impresarios will come along in the future. Unless Democrats are willing to roll the dice on the media’s willingness to self-police (a poor bet), they should reflect on the Trump lessons as well.