Unacceptable: The U.S. President is campaigning against America’s core values
Today’s appeal from President Trump’s campaign committee ought to offend every American who has even the most basic understanding of our Constitution and how democracy works.
I understand that Trump doesn’t like that the media reports facts that he doesn’t want published. The White House Press Secretary this week even denied that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian representative to get “dirt” on Trump’s campaign opponent — even though Trump Jr.’s own release confirmed it. This is not “fake news.” The White House is the faker here.
So, when I opened up today’s email from the president, I was not surprised but I was offended to see his message say directly: “The Fake News Media is the real opposition.”
“They’re so focused on bringing down the success of my administration that they’re forgetting about you, the American people,” says Trump.
This is odd, because this is coming from a man who praises murderous authoritarians like Russia’s Vladmir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and who now wants to see more than 20 million people cut off from access to health care simply because he cannot get his way in a Congress controlled by his own party.
Who really is the one not caring about the American people?
As for the substance, think about it. Freedom of the press was one of the most important rights that the founders of our nation fought for. There is a reason it is in the First Amendment (not the Second, Third, or Fourth.) It is at equal level with religious freedom. These are rights that the first Americans risked their lives to protect.
But Trump’s campaign against the news media works. And it is a tactic taken directly from history. Other authoritarians clamp down or attack the press as a major stepping stone toward grabbing power.
(Sadly, it also worked for Hitler. Literally, one of the major reasons Hitler rose to power was his ability to convince people not to believe what they were reading in newspapers.)
Trump’s supporters believe him, not the press. The latest poll by Public Policy Polling has these depressing findings:
-72% of Trump voters consider the Russia story overall to be ‘fake news,’ only 14% disagree.
-Only 24% of Trump voters even want an investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, 64% are opposed to an investigation.
-Even if there was an investigation, and it found that the Trump campaign did collude with Russia to aid his campaign, 77% of his supporters think he should still stay in office to just 16% who believe he should resign.
-Only 26% of Trump voters admit that Russia wanted Trump to win the election, 44% claim Russia wanted Hillary Clinton to win, and 31% say they’re not sure one way or the other.
-Just 13% of Trump voters believe that members of Trump’s campaign team did work with the Russians to help his campaign, to 81% who say they didn’t.
The implications of this are serious. If Trump is allowed to continue is war against truth, and millions of Americans continue to believe him, our ability to protect our democracy against illegal actions will erode. Think of it like a contract between two parties, when one of the parties doesn’t invoke a late fee even though the contract allows it. Over time, enforcing that late fee becomes impossible — it’s called “waiver.”
Let’s not waive our rights to a free press.
- Demand accountability by public officials. Answering our questions via the news media is one of the most effective ways to do this.
- Keep the press honest. Support quality journalism — subscribe to the New York Times or Washington Post, join your local NPR station, tell your friends about stories that you read (not just politics!) And stop supporting bad journalism. Don’t buy that tabloid that gets stories wrong, and turn off that cable channel that misleads about the facts. If advertisers know you are not watching, the media has to change.
- Speak up and speak out against Trump’s anti-freedom campaign. Whether you agree with Trump’s policies or not, there is nothing acceptable about a president of the United States campaigning against the free press.