The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson –
A friend of mine woke up Sunday morning, stretched and conveyed a nightmare scenario. He said he dreamed there was a “Huuuge” tanker ship headed for America like the Titanic loaded with tar sands crude headed toward a giant, melting glacier shaped like America. On the front of it was a massive figure in the form of the face of none other than Donald Trump.
He had this nightmare before reading the Sunday Washington Post, which has been running a series of editorials calling Trump a “threat to American democracy.”
They say, in part, that as Trump’s presidential campaign gathers momentum, “some people who initially were repelled by the prospect are reassuring themselves that the nation could easily survive his presidency. He’s a dealmaker and a pragmatist, they say. He doesn’t really believe the hateful messages he’s been spewing to win votes. He will be tamed by the American system of checks and balances.”
But Mr. Trump delivered a stump speech on Friday after receiving the endorsement of New Jersy Governor Chris Christie that “should shake that complacency.”
“His remarks about using government to attack companies and newspapers he doesn’t like, and to change libel law so that he can shut down criticism in the press, are genuinely un-American,” the Post says. “They reflect an attitude toward using government power to target opponents that would be entirely familiar to people who live in Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Chavista Venezuela. They have had no currency in Washington since the darkest, most paranoid days of Richard Nixon’s enemies list.”
Trump directed his venom toward the New York Times, which he called “dishonest” and “the absolute worst.” He attacked the Washington Post and its owner, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos.
“I have to tell you, I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence,” Mr. Trump said. “He wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”
The Post claimed Trump was inaccurate in his assertion.
“Mr. Bezos has made clear publicly that he has no desire to use The Post for political ends, and he has chosen to exercise no influence over editorial decisions,” the Post says. “However, as the owner, he’d be fully entitled to chart its ideological course if he wanted to, just as the owners of the Times, the Wall Street Journal and other great American newspapers do and have done for decades. The beauty of the American system is that it is a marketplace of ideas. (We have the same right on the Web). News outlets compete for readers and viewers — not for government favor.”
Well, maybe, but as Bernie Sanders is making clear in his campaign, the mainstream corporate media — which includes the New York Times and the Washington Post — is already compromised in a big way by where their money comes from: Big corporations. If Bezos didn’t buy the nation’s capital newspaper to have political influence, why did he buy it? Certainly not to make money. The paper is losing subscribers, advertising pages and money like all newspapers these days, even as the growing audience on the Web version is still not delivering enough revenue to make up for the lost print advertising money.
Robert L. Allbritton, the founder and publisher of Politico, sold all his television stations for a billion dollars and launched Politico about six years ago, ostensibly to become an inside political player in Washington, D.C. Why else would he do it?
Of course that may not be working out so well. The Washington Post recently described Politico as going through an “implosion,” when some disagreement between the top editors and Mr. Allbriton led to big time resignations and other fallout.
In his Hitleresque stump speech, Trump went on to say that as president he would “open up the libel laws, so when they write purposefully negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”
But the Post says current law already allows public figures to sue for damages if the media write “purposefully” false allegations.
“But the law makes public figures work harder to prove media recklessness than private citizens, who don’t have to prove that a falsehood was malicious or intentional. That difference, established by the Supreme Court more than a half century ago, has helped ensure the kind of lively political debate that Mr. Trump enjoys — except, apparently, when he is on the receiving end.”
Of course Congress makes laws, not the president. But then The Post goes on to ask the million dollar question: “Is Mr. Trump a threat to democracy?”
Their conclusion? “In history, it has generally been a mistake to laugh off the words of would-be dictators as they climbed to power.”
“If I become president, oh, do they have problems,” Mr. Trump says.
“If he acts on his threats,” according to The Post, “none of us will be able to say we received no warning.”
True, that, except for those who do not read the Washington Post — or the New American Journal, which is most Americans. The people who are boosting Trump’s candidacy don’t read newspapers anymore, if they ever did. They get their news from talk radio and Fox News or their conservative friends by e-mail or on Facebook.
There was a time about 40 years ago when a newspaper editorial like this would have had a major impact on radio and television news coverage of politics and public opinion at large. Not anymore.
Even MSNBC, the more liberal of the cable channels, constantly runs every speech Trump makes as if everything he says is legitimate, with no critical commentary from the likes of a stalwart figure like Tom Brokow, who would have indicated to viewers how much Trump sounds like a bully dictator. Trump may not be quite as bad as Adolph Hitler. Maybe he won’t go about exterminating the jews in gas ovens.
But if he is to be taken at his word and tries to deliver on any of his promises, he will try to ship every undocumented worker from Latin America back across the border in an exodus resembling the refugee crisis in Syria. He will try to escalate the bombing in the Middle East and kill millions of potentially innocent arabs and muslims, turning that part of the world against America even more than now in the wake of Bush’s wars.
He will fight to overturn Roe vs. Wade and make abortion illegal again with his appointements to the U.S. Supreme Court, taking away a woman’s individual right to choose and creating a massive social problem by escalating the number of unwanted children born in the U.S. We will have to build even more private prisons to house all the new criminals that will be created overnight after a Trump inauguration.
But all of that may be the least of our problems. Chances are the minute Trump steps into the oval office, the stock market will crash and the economy will collapse and he will do nothing to bail it out. He’s a laissez faire libertarian Republican who believes people should simply pull themselves up by their own boot straps, and if that doesn’t work, they should be fired and go homeless, forced to eat garbage or the leather their boots are made of.
Never mind the economy, however. Chances are within days of Trump taking over the duties of commander in chief, we will no doubt end up ensconced in World War Five (the Cold War being World War III and Bush’s “War on Terror” being WWIV), to the point where we may have to use nuclear weapons to defend ourselves — and destroy life on earth in the process of trying to save a few rich Americans who can fly to the stars, like Jeff Bezos.
Now, what would I like to see instead in a better dream for America? While I think it would be fine to have the first woman president in American history, it may not be the best idea to try to do it right on the heals of the first African American president. Clearly that has done nothing but escalate the partisan divide that threatens to tear this experiment in democracy to shreds.
I don’t know if Bernie Sanders can actually provide free health care and a free college education for everyone or get rid of all the guns or fix our relations with the Muslim world or defeat Isis or save the environment from the big oil companies or the planet from this run amok Republican selfish gene. But he is delivering the right message anyway. If we cannot rally together and figure out a way for our altruistic gene to win, we may be doomed no matter who wins the presidential election of 2016.
Let’s at least entertain the idea that we have to do this together, or we will all die apart. That is our central, critical dilemma.
In other words, Gwen Ifill of PBS, the question for educational public television is not whether government is too big or not. It is whether the selfish gene-based corporate Republican model is a better guarantor of our future — or a more altruistic democratic model. It’s not about socialism per se. A third party is no help at this point. I wish that could be the case. But it’s just not.
Either we chart a more altruistic course, or we perish from the earth. Even Abraham Lincoln knew that 160 years ago about the time of Charles Darwin’s death. Have we learned nothing since? Sure we have. You just wouldn’t know it from listening to the radio, watching television — or reading the newspapers in print or online.
Can a smart, magazine style Web site help save us? Certainly not if you don’t share it and support it. Keep on sharing those cat pics on Facebook and see what happens in November and January. Neither you nor your cat are going to be happy then. This video is NOT going to be funny.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.