By Alice Hubbard Lahoda, political columnist
This week’s #TrumpTweetWatch2k17 is brought to you by Seasonal Depression. (Is your everyday depression and anxiety due to the Trump presidency and revised Doomsday Clock projection not getting you down enough? Try Seasonal Depression: a bad mood to match the gloomiest time of year. Climate change may have the seasons a bit mixed up right now, but fear not; winter is coming. I’m speaking from personal experience here.)
As a result, the column will be short this week. Between the gloomy weather and the constant barrage of bad news reminding us that American democracy is a thing of the past, my mental health couldn’t withstand writing a long post. If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ll understand.
So instead of looking at multiple tweets, let’s focus on going into more detail about a single @realDonaldTrump musing. This is one of the more low-key terrifying tweets from last week:
Where was all the outrage from Democrats and the opposition party (the media) when our jobs were fleeing our country?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
On Monday, Jan. 30, President Trump tweeted out a question that seemed pretty benign (for him) upon first glance. Okay, so he’s mad at the Democrats and the media again. That’s nothing new. He’s the so-called “populist president” tweeting about jobs leaving America (despite the fact that his own companies send jobs overseas), fine. He’s even starting to get the hang of basic English grammar (although, if we’re being technical, jobs themselves can’t flee, but—baby steps).
If you read the tweet again, though, you might notice that Trump bizarrely refers to the media—not the Democrats—as the opposition party, and not for the first time this week. Then, you might remember that senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway made news on Sunday for saying that members of the press who “talked smack” about Trump should be fired. And if you’re a glutton for punishment who signed up for breaking news notifications from five different news outlets (or just make a habit out of reading “the failing New York Times”), you’ll probably remember that Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior White House strategist and chief white supremacist, actually referred to the press as “opposition” and said it should “keep its mouth shut” (among other troubling things) last Thursday.
Nothing says “we aren’t fascist” like exhibiting all the qualities of a fascist regime.
Not to monologue at you in an Aaron Sorkin-esque fashion, but what it comes down to is this:
A free press is crucial to a functioning democracy. Different branches and levels of government theoretically check one another. Remember that Schoolhouse Rock song about checks and balances, everyone?:
But, if or when one of those checks fails to work the way it’s supposed to (the way it did this week when Trump fired the acting Attorney General for refusing to go against the courts and enforce the White House travel ban), it is up to the press more than ever to act as a check on all branches and levels of government by reporting facts and acting as advocates for the truth. If the White House has a problem with the press simply because it’s doing its job, we have a big big league/bigly problem.
Democracy only works if people play by the rules. Sure, past administrations of both political parties have whined about the rules in abundance, but even the Nixon Administration respected the freedom of the press (a constitutionally protected right, I might add) to an extent. The second a president stops respecting that right and starts threatening the media, we stop being a full democracy. And guess what? Right around the same time Bannon, Conway, Trump, et al. started making these threats, The Economist reported that America was downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy.” Funny* how that worked out.
*As a political humor columnist and an obsessive fan of stand-up comedy, I would like to clarify for any reader who didn’t pick up on my sarcasm that this is the exact opposite of funny. If you made that sentence a punchline on stage, you’d be met by silence and disappointed stares (and possibly a few hecklers).
But because I don’t want to end on such a bummer of a sentiment, allow me to redirect your attention to some other political news for a moment. Yes, the day-to-day happenings at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. have been chaotic in even their tamest moments, but meanwhile, across town:
Capitol Police escorted man out of press conference who asked a LONG question about microwaves. Not a reporter, says he’s a social worker
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) January 31, 2017
Stay weird, Washington.
Photo courtesy Ted Eytan, Creative Commons