Everything I thought I knew about politics after being a current events follower since the age of 6 or 7 and even after attaining a degree in political science has gone out the window with the election of Donald Trump as President the United States.
Rules and traditions of the past no longer seem to apply. It is said we are in the post-truth era. Not only is it assumed those in power lie, some of those in power and some of the public seem to feel it does not matter, that “truth” is no more than some abstract concept, or something that can be sold as being actually true because it squares with the beliefs of the targeted consumers.
Reportedly satirist Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness” :
Part of me wants to think that his presidency will not be what is threatened, a hard-right turn to authoritarian rule of a strongman aided by the cult of personality and intimidation. But the other part of me expects the worst.
I used to puzzle at people who would say things like: “I don’t even read the news. It’s always bad.”
Now, I almost feel like that myself.
There are lots of theories about how the election turned out as it did. I think there is merit to many of them. But let’s face it, more than anything it was a fluke of our own electoral college system, which can award the election to a candidate who does not have the most votes.
But there is no doubt the Democrats lost, or Hillary Clinton lost because she did not appeal strongly enough to enough people — even though she did get the majority of the votes. She did not get the votes where she needed them, the battle ground states, and she lost out on potential votes due to her lack of appeal to the Democratic base or even to Republicans who might have voted for her rather than the unorthodox Trump, but who may have just decided to sit it out.
In the long run, all may not be lost if the Democratic Party finds its role again or for that matter if the Republican Party finds its role.
But in the meantime we have a president-elect who challenges the fundamental concept of the rule of law. He has thus far refused to separate himself from his business connections that create a giant conflict of interest. In fact, he seems to be using the office he has not yet officially taken over to aid his businesses, selling access and getting foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotels.
When I was a much younger man, a Republican president went too far, abusing his power in the White House. While I am sure they hated to pull the rug out from one of their own, the Republican elders of the time were committed to the rule of law or at least they had some sense of shame. They went to the White House and told Richard Nixon in private to either resign or we start impeachment proceedings.
I’m not sure this would happen in a Trump administration, judging from the outright cowardice shown by Republican elders in the primary. I mean even though they at first spoke out against Trump, once they came under his intimidation they quickly succumbed. Even Mitt Romney went kowtowing to the bully with the wild orange hair only to be humiliated.
Besides being in the post-truth era, we may be losing the rule of law. Even the rule of law depends upon men and women with the fortitude to support it, even if it could mean risking their political careers.
Once the rule of law is lost, all is lost.
A free press, guaranteed by the First Amendment, is endangered by outright intimidation by Trump and his methods of spreading dissention among its ranks. He has those within established journalism arguing over how best to report his lies. Should they call them distortions, exaggerations, embellishments, opinions seemingly not backed up by evidence, or lies? And if they do point out his lies, are they then not being objective observers or at least appearing not to be?
A free press guided by the search for truth should win out. But too much of it today is guided more by the search of clicks on the computer (or cell phone) by a modern audience who does not want to be bothered by complicated details and in many cases is segmented into groups who only read material that seems to fit their beliefs, (“truthiness” again) that may have been formed by reading one-sided material or more than likely listening to the highly-slanted Fox News and the distortions of talk radio on Clear Channel stations.
And then there is the phenomenon of “fake news”, something once relegated to supermarket check out stands read by bored housewives — it seemingly has become almost mainstream on the internet gobbled up by people who either don’t know the difference or don’t care.
Actually a friend of mine was fooled by it on a story recently and then I in turn was too (I see how it can happen now).