By Hal Lindsey
In today’s political climate, at almost any public venue in America, a speaker can instantly divide the audience into distinct camps with just two words … Donald Trump.
That name can be incendiary in churches, families, businesses, schools, and whole communities. The President’s detractors see him as destructive to all that makes America great. Meanwhile, his proponents think he’s going to “make America great again.” A recent report on viewer ratings for cable news, showed Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow dominating. Hannity defends and promotes Trump with all his might day after day. Maddow attacks as hard as she can.
We are a divided nation.
But certain facts seem unassailable. First, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. Second, there is only one United States. Third, we only have one President at a time. Fourth, a weakened head of state weakens a nation. Fifth, a weakened United States makes the whole world a more dangerous place.
A true representative republic will have vigorous political debate. But recent rancor has gone far beyond politics. Early in the Trump presidency, comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted, “Wake up & join the resistance. Once the military is w(ith) us fascists get overthrown. Mad king and his handlers go bye bye.”
A few days later, Entertainment Weekly ran this headline; “Sarah Silverman walks back call for coup against Trump.” It’s hard to imagine. A popular entertainer had to “walk back” her call for a coup d’état in the United States of America. But, as far as I can see, she’s as popular now as ever.
Even though Silverman walked back the most extreme part of her statement, “the resistance” that she mentioned has become a real thing. In May, Hillary Clinton said, “I'm now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance.”
I don't like the term “the resistance” because it evokes images of guerrilla warfare, such as with the French Resistance to the Nazis in World War II. But military terminology has so permeated political rhetoric that it has become a waste of time to complain about it.
In general, I agree that politicians, and most other citizens, should lawfully resist policies they see as hurtful or unfair. We hope for politicians who will offer positive solutions, but there’s also a place for resisting the other side.
Notice that I said, “most other citizens” should lawfully resist. There are at least two professions that must leave political advocacy, and resistance, to the privacy of the voting booth — active military personnel, and journalists. I’m not talking about editorial writers, columnists, or commentators. It’s their job to give their opinions. I’m talking about beat reporters whose job it is to give the facts, as opposed to making their personal opinions sound like facts. A high percentage of Washington beat reporters now see themselves as part of “the resistance.”
Hannity and Maddow are not reporters. They make no claim to impartiality. They host opinion shows that reflect their own views. That’s okay. When you read these columns, or watch me on television, you know that I am giving commentary. But Maddow also serves as anchor of MSNBC convention and election coverage. Once upon a time, no network would even think of having a commentator anchor coverage of a straight news event.
There is not even a pretense that Rachel Maddow is an unbiased observer. Before the Republican convention, she compared Donald Trump to Hitler, and worried that America might be taking a turn like that of Nazi Germany. That’s an extreme point of view. Yet, she anchored election coverage for MSNBC. Let her give her opinions, but as a commentator, not a straight reporter.
Over at CNN, things have become strange indeed. They act as if they see themselves in a life-or-death struggle to bring down the President. They believe the Trump campaign treasonously colluded with Moscow during the election. With that as their context, even seemingly insignificant meetings take on an aura of great importance. It’s possible that some of the conjecture now being passed off as news, could turn out to be true. I don’t know, and that’s the point — neither do they.
This year, the White House Correspondents’ Association spent a long portion of their high-profile annual dinner, honoring famous Watergate reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. In popular culture, they are seen as the men who brought down Richard Nixon. They happened to be honored at the first correspondents’ dinner of the Trump presidency. That’s not a coincidence. That’s a message to Donald Trump.
Shortly after Trump became president, Woodward and Bernstein’s old paper, the Washington Post, added a new line to their masthead — “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” It seems to be a response to the President’s criticism of the media. But the truth is, democracy does need light.
Our constitution divides government into three branches in order to have internal checks and balances on power. The First Amendment guarantees a free press. That’s supposed to provide an external check on power.
But it works only when the press shines an unbiased light on government activities. Unbiased means, don’t join “the resistance.” Report the news, then trust the public to make up their own minds. If the media were to begin trusting the people with the straight news, the people might begin to trust the media.