How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Thoughts on Trump & Ifill

The 2016 presidential campaign produced two candidates who the majority of American people didn't like and didn't trust.  Many voters, who felt that the political establishment didn't care about them, held their noses and voted for Donald Trump.  The electorate doesn't like our politics or our politicians.

A strong indicator of the depth of the problem is people are not voting -- 97 million eligible voters didn't vote.  Turnout was 58.1%, lower than the 60.4% in 2004 and substantially lower than the 62.3% in 2008. If you look at votes cast as a percentage of eligible voters, voter turnout in the U.S. is dramatically lower than most highly developed democratic countries, i.e. 70% in Sweden, France, Israel, Norway, and Denmark. 

What can be done to spur turnout?  In most countries, the government takes the lead with regard to registering voters - either by registering them automatically once they become eligible (as is the case in Germany) or by aggressively seeking out and registering eligible voters (UK and Australia).  I'd be in favor of a system that automatically registers folks once they meet the eligibility requirements.  I don't see the downside to such an approach.  I see it as akin to serving on jury duty - a responsibility of citizenship.

Another deep-seated problem with our political system is that our citizens have lost trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.  Confidence in mass media, a linchpin of our democracy, has plummeted to the lowest level in Gallup polling history, with just 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.  This is down eight percentage points from last year.  The days when Walter Cronkite, CBS's nightly news anchor, was referred to as the "most trusted man in America" are long-gone.

If you don't trust the media, it really doesn't matter if they catch a politician telling a lie because you will not believe what they are telling you anyway.  One of the major reasons that Donald Trump was during and subsequently been able to play fast and loose with facts and suffer no apparent negative consequences is because his supporters didn't trust the fact checkers.  It would be very hard to enforce the traffic laws regarding speeding if the driving public was totally convinced that all of the devises used to determine whether you were speeding were not to be trusted. 

There is no longer a clear line of demarcation between facts, fiction and opinions.  Whether one gets their news from television, talk radio, blogs, facebook or twitter, it is generally slanted to the right or the left.  In order to make informed decision, it is very important to be able to separate the wheat (facts) from the chaff (fiction and opinions) and that is becoming increasingly difficult.  This is a fundamental threat to our democracy.

This is why the recent passing of PBS's Gwen Ifill was such a tragic loss.  She was a voice for calm and reason in a time replete with ranting and raving. James Warren got it right when he wrote about Gwen's passing in Vanity Fair Magazine, "How odd that those pretty rudimentary values seem so rare.  It wasn't that long ago that such attributes were expected from most journalists.  And, come to think of it, any other Americans in positions of responsibility, not just rabbis and parish priests.  Possessing them didn't virtually ensure professional esteem and reverence, as they do now. Consider a culture in which being provocative is now more prized than being right.  Being "interesting," even if consistently wrong will get calls from TV bookers.  It will get clicks and calls from editors about having "really stirred the pot!"

It is a culture that spawned Donald Trump.  Reality television became the reality of politics in 2016.  Early indications are that he is clueless about to "make America great again."  As a result, like all authoritarian leaders he steers away from serious policy discussions and instead plays on people's fears, anxieties and prejudice.

What should those of us who are deeply concerned about a Trump presidency do?  We need to vigilant and proactive.  I hope I'm wrong, but I have grave doubts about whether he will be able, because of his impulsive personality, to effectively serve as commander and chief.  I am genuinely  concerned that his lack of understanding of foreign policy, international law, domestic law and our Constitution he will result in him taking actions which will be contrary to our values and our traditions.  A good example of this the President's executive order banning the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days. This seismic move to bans 218 million from the United States supposedly based on "extreme vetting," without spelling out what that is, runs contrary to everything that makes America exceptional.

We can't concede our civil rights or civil liberties.  Donald Trump is the legitimate president of the United States, but he can't be allowed to destroy the legacy and legitimacy of our nation.