I know I'm not alone in stating that I am thrilled the campaigns for the race for the White House have finally ended. Nevertheless, the aftermath of this recent election poses some troubling questions and concerns.
Dear Mr. Gergen;
I am writing this note as I have long held considerable respect for you as a political commentator.
When you participated in the CNN panel of commentators the other evening following the election, you asked if the media had been an enabler of sorts. I was impressed with this question, and the wisdom and humility behind it. The answer is a resounding, "Yes." To quote an unflattering phrase with regard to Donald Trump, "He played you (the media) like a tune," while the reality show shell-game played on. As Colin Powell wrote to CNN's Fareed Zakaria: "It is time to start ignoring him. You guys are playing his game, you are his oxygen. He outraged us again today with his comments on Paris no-go for police districts. I will watch and pick the timing, not respond to the latest outrage."
Throughout this disturbing campaign, I watched with alarm as the media gave relatively minimal attention to Mr. Trump's history of unprincipled/illegal behavior -- from the Mohawks casino scandal, to the federal fraud case surrounding Trump "University;" the subcontractor vendors he cheated; his divisive, disingenuous and alarmingly uniformed comments on the campaign trail; and more. Professional fact checkers did not refer to him as "the King of the Whoppers" out of some caprice.
Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandals were brought up, time and again, ad nauseum. Secretary Clinton is hardly a saint. Nevertheless, if the media wished to portray a fair and balanced view during this infamous race for the White House, one assumes they would have first considered if such an approach were at all feasible, given the ethical and professional histories/biographies of both candidates. For many months, the media chased Trump's tweets, continually, rather than do their homework, and research and report on the more important issues. By the way, I should note that of all the television news programs produced today, I find that CNN has one of the best.
I watched in dismay as journalists parlayed misinformation and disinformation to viewers and readers who believed what they wanted to believe in a world where op-eds and gossip from social media are considered fact. As I wrote in an article for Hubpages, "Television news is regularly compressed into 60-second bites of information, as if viewers had the attention span and IQ levels of a gnat. Drama-laden media sound bites are interpreted as knowledge. Reporting political scandals is often more significant than reporting facts."
The voters I know, personally, who voted for Trump did so on the basis of the single-issue voter, and are concerned with one the following:
- Scalia's Supreme Court replacement
- Lower taxes
- Deregulation of the financial services industry
- The ease of restrictions on the production of fossil fuels
- The repeal of Obamacare
- "I hate Hillary Clinton." Benghazi was often referenced, with statements such as, "She let Chris Stevens die."
- Relief that Pence will take the Oval Office after Trump is impeached. (I also believe that Mr. Trump eventually will be impeached.) Trump's way of life is about to change, dramatically. He won't be living in a gold fish bowl, per se, but some believe that he will be unable to curb the darker angels of his nature as he interacts with individuals, nearly 24/7, on a scale never before considered. They estimate the impeachment process to commence a year into his presidency.
- They wanted change. We should keep in mind that many voted for Barack Obama as an instrument of change back in 2008, and how Senator McCain cast himself as a maverick of the GOP political establishment during that campaign. (Voters haven't voted for a Presidential candidate from same party beyond two consecutive terms in over a century. Truman doesn't count. This is often referred to as the "two-term jinx.")
These are good, hard-working people, who do not research issues in order to familiarize themselves with domestic and world affairs. Nor do they do fully understand how global trade functions, the foundations of NATO or the complexities of the Middle East. Conversely, most of my friends who voted for Clinton, do. (I am often annoyed when I hear people describe Trump supporters as, "they're all stupid." Uniformed, perhaps, but not ignorant.)
Interestingly, not one of the Trump voters I referenced above felt "disenfranchised." Others do, however, and crave more opportunities. They're working two jobs or have seen their wages reduced and hours cut as business seeks to increase profits and/or appease stockholders. The perfect storm of deregulation/lack of oversight, repeal of Glass Steagall and rampant greed -- key factors which spawned the 2008 economic collapse of the financial services industry -- left an inedible sting on Wall Street and corporate America, while devastating the lives of many. Technology and global competition have also usurped workers in certain industries.
We are now witnessing something unprecedented since Richard Nixon and the Viet Nam War: Thousands are taking to the streets in cities across the US in anti-Trump protests. This time, however, their dissent centers on the man, himself -- not a vehemently contested war that polarized a nation. Trump supporters blame the Clinton campaign. True, the Secretary went too negative as well, but not nearly as divisive and fear-mongering as our new President-elect, Donald Trump. What did everyone expect? As David Axelrod also noted the other evening on CNN, "You reap what you sow."
Only 25.6% of eligible voters actually voted for Trump; the numbers are slightly higher for Clinton. That's not exactly a mandate. And despite those of us who want change, at the end of the proverbial day, it is the voter who selects members of "the swamp" we refer to as Congress -- either by our actions or inaction.
I'm an Independent voter who has learned one undeniable fact: America isn't easy, and can be unforgiving if we don't do our homework. In retrospect, perhaps it is time for the media to rethink a few things. I certainly hope so. In the interim, all we can do as a nation is hope for -- and work toward -- the best of who we are.