About Those Democratic Norms…

This morning’s New York Times contains a disquieting submission from two Harvard government professors. They began

Donald J. Trump’s election has raised a question that few Americans ever imagined asking: Is our democracy in danger? With the possible exception of the Civil War, American democracy has never collapsed; indeed, no democracy as rich or as established as America’s ever has. Yet past stability is no guarantee of democracy’s future survival.

We have spent two decades studying the emergence and breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America. Our research points to several warning signs.

Pre-eminent among those warning signs is the emergence and electoral success of what the authors call “anti-democratic” politicians, who can be recognized by their failure–or refusal– to reject violence, willingness to curtail civil liberties, and their attacks on the legitimacy of elected governments. As they illustrate, Trump fits the bill.

Another warning sign is the weakening of democratic institutions and norms.

Among the unwritten rules that have sustained American democracy are partisan self-restraint and fair play. For much of our history, leaders of both parties resisted the temptation to use their temporary control of institutions to maximum partisan advantage, effectively underutilizing the power conferred by those institutions. There existed a shared understanding, for example, that anti-majoritarian practices like the Senate filibuster would be used sparingly, that the Senate would defer (within reason) to the president in nominating Supreme Court justices, and that votes of extraordinary importance — like impeachment — required a bipartisan consensus. Such practices helped to avoid a descent into the kind of partisan fight to the death that destroyed many European democracies in the 1930s.

As the authors note, “partisan restraint” and other norms of democratic behavior have significantly eroded, replaced by naked power struggles.

The filibuster, once a rarity, has become a routine tool of legislative obstruction. As the political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have shown, the decline of partisan restraint has rendered our democratic institutions increasingly dysfunctional. Republicans’ 2011 refusal to raise the debt ceiling, which put America’s credit rating at risk for partisan gain, and the Senate’s refusal this year to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — in essence, allowing the Republicans to steal a Supreme Court seat — offer an alarming glimpse at political life in the absence of partisan restraint.

The erosion of these governing norms did not happen all at once; the signs of growing dysfunction have been visible–especially at the federal level–for decades. Although Trump did not cause the weakening of these safeguards, he was a clear beneficiary.

In the wake of November 8, pundits have scrambled to “explain” the election results. As James Fallows writes in “Despair and Hope in the Age of Trump,” most of those explanations are wrongheaded.

Fallows, too, underscores the importance of democratic norms, and the implications of Trump’s contempt for rules of any kind.

The American republic is based on rules but has always depended for its survival on norms—standards of behavior, conduct toward fellow citizens and especially critics and opponents that is decent beyond what the letter of the law dictates. Trump disdains them all. The American leaders I revere are sure enough of themselves to be modest, strong enough to entertain self-doubt. When I think of Republican Party civic virtues, I think of Eisenhower. But voters, or enough of them, have chosen Trump.

Fallows dismisses two popular explanations of that choice: the belief that this was a sweeping “change” election, and the theory that the vote reflected the “desperation and fury” of citizens living away from the liberal coasts. Change elections drive waves of incumbents out of office; as he notes, that didn’t happen. The “rage” theory is similarly wanting. As Fallows says, that theory misses

the optimism and determination that are intertwined with desolation and decay in the real “out there.” I can say that because I have been out there, reporting with my wife, Deb, in smaller-town America for much of the past four years….

A Pew study in 2014 found that only 25 percent of respondents were satisfied with the direction of national policy, but 60 percent were satisfied with events in their own communities. According to a Heartland Monitor report in 2016, two in three Americans said that good ideas for dealing with national social and economic challenges were coming from their towns. Fewer than one in three felt that good ideas were coming from national institutions. These results also underscore the sense my wife and I took unmistakably from our visits: that city by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms.

It really is the media.

Count me among those who have become convinced that the decline of responsible journalism, the proliferation of “fake news” sites and the increasing sophistication of propaganda (Russian or homegrown)–abetted by a dangerous lack of civic literacy– are largely to blame for the disconnect between citizens and their national government, and for the erosion of those all-important democratic norms.

Fallows’ concluding paragraph is  profound.

Nearly a century ago, Walter Lippmann wrote that the challenge for democracies is that citizens necessarily base decisions on the “pictures in our heads,” the images of reality we construct for ourselves. The American public has just made a decision of the gravest consequence, largely based on distorted, frightening, and bigoted caricatures of reality that we all would recognize as caricature if applied to our own communities. Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.


  1. “…….will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality?”

    Yes, but only through a fundamental change in the LEADERSHIP of the pro-democracy communication NGO’s before January 20th.

    We could all use a course in ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP.

  2. “Count me among those who have become convinced that the decline of responsible journalism, the proliferation of “fake news” sites and the increasing sophistication of propaganda (Russian or homegrown)–abetted by a dangerous lack of civic literacy– are largely to blame for the disconnect between citizens and their national government, and for the erosion of those all-important democratic norms.”

    “…and for the erosion of those all-important democratic norms.”

    I agree totally with the above copied and pasted paragraph from Sheila’s blog but found it necessary to copy and paste the ending of the last sentence of the paragraph to make my point. With all of the automaton and progress referred to in her earlier blog; is there any way possible to total the number of HOURS we have been forced by the media to see Donald Trump’s face and to hear or read his unending, unAmerican, undemocratic, often inhuman comments, distortions and lies? I cannot turn on my TV to any news media site day or overnight without finding him blathering away and applauding himself; the media has forced this election and the post-election coverage of his every breath, gasp, fart or ridiculous Tweets against Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin comedy routines while his foolish endangerment of our diplomatic relations with other nations seems to be less important. He has announced that these current “Thank You” rallies will NOT end once he is president so prepare yourselves for the continuation of the current lack of democracy and responsible journalism to continue without relief. His most recent Tweet to let China keep our Naval drone has gone swiftly off of the newscasts as being of no importance.

    “About Those Democratic Norms…” Trump don’t need no stinkin’ Democratic norms; he has his supported fascism to guide him and his white nationalist party. His family members are sitting in on high level government meetings which we never receive reports on the content and/or any decisions made in these meetings or if the Trump kids have an active part in the process. Democracy is gasping it’s final breaths as we await the final and legal vote of the Electoral College and try to celebrate the many religious holidays at this time of year and try to look forward to the New Year.

  3. Yes, and in large part, it’s the introduction of “electronic media”, which is radio and television without the “Fairness Doctrine”, followed by “social media”, in which we basically all report the news to one another and seek comments to re-enforce our own opinions. And this includes me, too, because I want to be different — just like everybody else.
    If we survive this period of learning how to deal with it, we’ll be okay. But, it is by no means certain we’ll be able to do that required learning.

  4. We have most likely gone too far with the election of trump. I believe that the descent into an autocratic/oligarchic nation will rapidly increase and it will take at least two years before the general public that has supported the tea party candidates and trump realizes what they have done. Only then will they rise up again and demand to be released from this hell that they have created.

  5. I would strongly recommend “Leadership on the Line” by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky (Boston: Harvard Bushiness School Publishing, 2002).

    From Amazon.com:

    In times of constant change, adaptive leadership is critical. The Harvard Business Review Collection brings together the seminal ideas on how to adapt and thrive in challenging environments, from leading thinkers on the topic–most notably Ronald A. Heifetz of the Harvard Business School and Cambridge Leadership Associates.

    The Heifetz Collection includes two classic books: “Leadership on the Line” [one my bibles] by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky and the “Practice of Leadership” by Heifetz, Linsky, and Alexander Grashow.

    ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP is a practical framework for dealing with today’s mix of urgency, high stakes, and uncertainty. It has been used by individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments worldwide. In a world of challenging environments, ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP serves as a guide to DISTINGUISHING THE ESSENTIAL FROM THE EXPENDABLE, beginning the meaningful process of adapting and CHANGING THE STATUS QUO.

    Ronald A. Heifetz is the founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

  6. JoAnn,

    “Democracy is gasping its final breaths as we await the final and legal vote of the Electoral College and try to celebrate the many religious holidays at this time of year and try to look forward to the New Year.”

    Since friends can agree to disagree. I disagree. The vote of the Electoral College is not the final breath of democracy. Hopefully, it will only mark the end of INCOMPETENT leadership on the pro-democracy side.

  7. Has anyone been watching the “man on the street” interviews with Trump supporters? It seems they really don’t care about being lied to. They don’t care that “Drain the swamp,” means fill it with bigger gators and snakes. They love everything he does.

    I recently saw a report that showed that Trump spent about half of what Hillary spent on the campaign. That report didn’t mention the fact that Trump got an estimated $2.1 BILLION in free coverage from the media. Most of that coverage was either positive or neutral in tone. Between the media and Mr. Comey, Hillary didn’t have a chance.

  8. JoAnn,

    “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill quote from BrainyQuote.com.

  9. Nancy,

    Thanks for the terrific link. We’re not going to lose the democracy, at least not this trip around. We’re not all crazy, at least not yet.

  10. While attacks on our democracy are nothing new (see David Duke, the Dixiecrats, the Civil War, the triumph of tea partiers and the libertarian superrich, the racist record ofTrump’s current candidate for Attorney General et al. et al. et al.), Trump has brought it all together, politicized it, sold it to an unwary public, and now is stuck with keeping such campaign promises for the next four years (barring an electoral miracle a few days hence which would keep him out of office). If he survives the electoral college vote, as is likely, and if he keeps his campaign promises, then yes, there is a severe question whether democracy can survive, or at least survive in its present form as oligarchy in the form of Wall Street banks and corporate America (ie., the likes of Goldman Sachs and Exxon-Mobil) fully and finally take over America, my greatst fear. I often refer to our democracy as “tattered.” If Trump keeps his campaign promises, I will have a new phrase to describe it, to wit: “torn apart.”

    Democracy is a fragile arrangement that, as Sheila suggests, needs a tacit understanding of its practicioners that all are involved in making it work, that “self-government” means exactly what it says and that government by the few without consent of the governed (a majority of people, not counties and states) is per se anti-democratic. Trump is a minority president-in-waiting, his campaign promises were rejected by a margin of nearly three million votes, but yet due to a quirky Constitution he will sit in the Oval Office and make and propose and execute policy for an unwilling majority. We have a structural problem in interpreting our Constitution.

    Thus our Constitution is at odds with itself, i.e., election by electoral college versus majority vote of those to be governed. Athenian democracy was based on the will of the majority; there were no colleges of electors or geographic or other sector breakdowns of the total vote. Our forefathers modeled our Constitution from its Athenian antecedent and added the electoral college requirement to prevent what they felt at the time to be a potential for political chicanery, which has left us with conflicting signals. Do we abide by Athenian majority rule or do we succumb to rule by geography?
    Both have their adherents, but I am of the opinion that the fundamental tenet in the establishment and maintenance of democracy is that of majority rule rather than how the vote is counted, of substance over procedure, and from this I deduce that since Trump was in fact not elected by majority vote he will serve as an illegitimate chief executive “elected” by a minority, an outcome which is anathema in either Athenian or Madisonian thinking, and an insult to democracy and those who bled and died for its maintenance and survival.

  11. Gerald,

    No one can say it better than you: “….and from this I deduce that since Trump was in fact not elected by majority vote he will serve as an illegitimate chief executive “elected” by a minority, an outcome which is anathema in either Athenian or Madisonian thinking, and an insult to democracy and those who bled and died for its maintenance and survival.”

    And if you don’t mind my addition: “and I might add HIS EVENTUAL DOWNFALL which might come much sooner than expected.”

  12. Marv; Sir Winston was a wise man indeed, a man for HIS times. What would his words be today, how would he lead in this 21st Century.

    Here is my view of our future for this country if Trump is inaugurated and Congress approves his cabinet appointees; I must return to Sir Winston’s time of 1942 or 1943 when I was 5 or 6 years old. My grandparents took me to New York City to visit my Aunt Mildred who lived in Queens; the apartment buildings abutted one another so we could step out her living room window, down only 2 feet to the roof of the building next door. Grandpa and I loved looking at the city from that rooftop, especially at night, until the night of the enforced blackout. We watched as huge sections of New York City, one at a time, went totally dark and stayed that way for hours. It was frightening to see; and that was only one city in this great country. I now see the heart and soul of this entire country going dark, a section at a time till we are in full darkness. Can we be assured the light will return to our lives when we have no assurance we will survive Trump’s leadership due to his escalating destruction of diplomatic relations with other nations as he destroys us from within? Will we have the heart to defend this country from the enemies outside when we cannot defend ourselves from our neighbors…and in too many cases, our own family members?

    If – IF – we have a glimmer of hope of a return to democracy, even the one that is not perfect; that hope lies with Bernie Sanders, Liz Warren and Cory Booker. I know you don’t agree at all with Bernie but…he is a man people will listen to and will follow. Liz wasn’t ready for the nomination for the presidency this year and Cory is a voice of and for our future – maybe. If Trump & Co. do not destroy them and our hope in his scorched earth rampage.

  13. I had breakfast with an educated friend who progressive liberal views I usually agree with. He blamed the Republican’s sweeping victory on one thing, Hilary’s high paid speaking schedule and her greed. I tried to explain that all politicians raise money before and after their political careers by speaking engagements and Hilary’s was no different except that she was extrodinarily more successful. I asked him who he voted for and he admitted he could not vote for Clinton in good conscience. He claimed she was dishonest for trying to cover up he money making speaking engagements. I pointed out to my friend that Trump’s dishonesty was significantly greater than Clinton’s. He agreed. “So who did you finally vote for?” I asked. He replied that he voted for one of the other candidates. I said non votes or votes for other candidates were the reason Clinton lost and why we soon will have a baboon in the White house. When I asked him, who would make the best president he replied that Clinton would, of course. I insisted that his vote was as if he voted for Trump and such votes were the reason Clinton lost. He was visibly upset, so I think he realized that he had held Clinton to a higher standard of honesty than he had Trump. Too late my friend.

  14. JoAnn,

    “Marv… I know you don’t agree at all with Bernie but…he is a man people will listen to and will follow.”

    I don’t disagree with Bernie Sanders’ philosophy. I believe I made that clear before. I just don’t believe he can EFFECTIVELY lead at this point in time. Whatever the reasons, he was unable to create the necessary following during our last election and he has less of a chance to do that now.

    Bernie Sanders did have a following. But after January 20th, if there isn’t a near-term REALISTIC HOPE, most of those same followers will be scared to even mention his name.

  15. JoAnn,

    I believe in winning. It comes from my very strong background in both the military and in college sports. Bernie Sanders is not going to WIN, not in my lifetime. That’s for sure.

  16. I agree with all the comments and feelings of the little people to the Proffesors. Now our only choice is to Pray to God that we can over come what Trump’s decisions may be.

  17. Democracy should be about win-win situations. However, democracy is at its “death door” here in the U.S. All is not lost, but we’re now involved in a zero sum game. It’s Democracy versus Fascism. Ultimately, there will only be a winner and loser in this contest.

  18. To jump into Marv’s and JoAnn’s dialogue:

    I liked just about every policy position Bernie had/has. I think he’s right that the best hope for salvation of this Country lies in moving towards the European models of a “Socialist — Capitalist” Democracy.

    I couldn’t and didn’t vote for him for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t think he could win the general election as a “Socialist.” Second, I thought that even if he could have won the general election, there was no realistic chance his policies would be enacted by Congress. Heck, I doubt Hillary. if she had won, could have gotten much of her agenda accomplished with the Repubs still in control of the house either, even if the Demos had won the Senate. But at this point, the idea of a “do-nothing” Congress in Washington, D.C. would be a wonderful thing.

    None of which, of course, helps us deal with our present circumstances

  19. As much as I despise the man and what he and his Thugs are about to do to the Country, one has to admit that Trump, Steve Bannon and Kelly Ann Conway played — and are still playing — the mainstream media like champs. I wonder if he didn’t thank them when he summoned them to that private “pow wow” at the Trump “Presidential” Tower after the election. He should have (along with thanking James Comey).

    Of course, the table had been set for them by Fox News, the conservative talk radio bloviators , and the Republicans in Congress having spent the majority of the last several years “investigating” Clinton’s alleged role in Benghazi that turned up the gift of her private e-mail server. Turns out that there is indeed a “vast Right Wing Conspiracy” in this Country.

    The mainstream media treated the so-called “e-mail scandal,” which there was never any “there” there, as the equivalent to Trump’s outright lies, lack of knowledge about government and foreign policy, his racist statements and policies, etc.:

    Breaking News: Hillary’s e-mails show she ordered pizza for her staff on the night of Benghazi instead of getting into a jet fighter and rescuing Chris Stevens! Meanwhile, Donald Trump said today he would start a war with Iran, if Iranian sailors give “the finger” to U.S. Navy sailors.

    So the “drum beat” of “Crooked Hillary” was there and waiting for them.

  20. We can probably spend the next four years analyzing and lamenting the loss of common social sense and never be wrong about any of it. It is all wrong and the possible consequences are only limited by our imaginations.

    It could literally be the end of American democracy.

    But also it could “only” be the collapse of neolibralism.

    They say that recovery from personal dysfunction requires hitting bottom and perhaps that’s true of cultural dysfunction as well.

    So, looking forward we have things to do to limit the damages to only temporary trauma. In many cases laws and policies can be redone when they fail. But what can’t be easily fixed is loss of freedom and democracy.

    To me that has to be our line in the sand. Make it clear that changes to the basic processes of democracy, campaigning and voting, that don’t clearly enhance the choices of we the people are non negotiable. Intolerable. Worth whatever it takes to resist.

    Rampant stupidity in many areas can be expected now. Looting of the public Treasury can be expected and probably not prevented. Sad and wasteful but temporary as long as we can contain the damage to four years.

    As Trump gets his incompetence thrown in his face his narcissism will consume him and public opinion will become intolerable to him. Censorship will be his inclination and compromise of freedoms his reaction.

    No, a thousand times no!

    We have the numbers on our side. The Electoral College is only an artifact of the past if we do this right.

    Voting rights must be scrupulously and emphatically declared off limits to change.

    Everything else in danger of collapse must be kept in perspective. Collapse will clarify positions. People will learn by pain never to do that again.

    But the election choices of we the people must be maintained as sacrosanct.

    They are our only hope. Everything else can be fixed in time.

  21. David F,

    Most of us on this blog see pretty much the same problems, now it’s time we did something about them. After tomorrow, we should have a “new playing field” to do it.

  22. Yes, Sheila, it really is the media.

    Quoting Fallows’ statement, “Walter Lippmann wrote that the challenge for democracies is that citizens necessarily base decisions on the “pictures in our heads,” the images of reality we construct for ourselves”, I’m prompted to expand the thought with another of Lippmann’s summations, this one a 3-year study, “A Test of the News”, conducted by Lippmann and fellow journalist Charles Merz and subsequently published by the New Republic in 1920.

    Briefly paraphrasing the report, Lippmann and Merz were curious about the accuracy of print media organizations in reporting the news, next they elected to conduct a long-term study using the highly regarded New York Times as their source, and ultimately they formed conclusions, surprising conclusions that the NYT was neither unbiased nor accurate in its press coverage of the Bolshevik revolution.

    They concluded that the NYT news stories were not based on facts, but were “…dominated by the hopes of the men who composed the news organizations.” They found the paper cited events that did not happen, atrocities that never took place, and reported no fewer than 91 times that the Bolshevik regime was on the verge of collapse. “The news about Russia is a case of seeing not what was, but what men wished to see,” Lippmann and Merz charged. “The chief censor and the chief propagandist were hope and fear in the minds of reporters and editors.”

    Little has changed since 1920 including a couple of old aphorisms of journalism, “Dog Bites Man is not news. Man Bites Dog is news” and “You never read about a plane that did not crash.”

    It really is the media. They saw a man biting a dog and the makings of a plane crash.

  23. Pete:
    I agree with most of your observations that just analyzing what went wrong doesn’t/won’t help us survive and hopefully recover from what happened and is about to happen, regardless of why we are now in this predicament.

    But I think trying to determine what went wrong can/could help it from happening in the future — assuming we have the opportunity to correct it. In retrospect, the Clinton campaign made some mistakes in how to allocate her and her surrogates time and resources. And, of course, Hillary came with high negatives (thanks to the conservatives drumbeat pounding of her and Bill for over 30 years). But I will go to my grave believing, until someone can prove otherwise to me, that the biggest reason why Hillary ultimately didn’t win was FBI Director James Comey. It might not have been a huge victory and maybe she wouldn’t have swung the Senate, but she would have won the Presidency.

    It’s very disturbing to me that the appointed, “highest” ranking law enforcement official in this Country can/did inject himself into a Presidential election, just days before the election, based on virtually no hard facts nor evidence, other than his personal concern that he would have looked bad if the Repubs had learned after the election that the FBI had possibly stumbled upon a new trove of Hillary’s ill-begotten e-mails. He single handily reinvigorated Trump’s campaign and turned the election.

    What Comey did is a travesty and should be a crime itself. But no one seems to be concerned. No investigation into why Comey felt it necessary to do it based on virtually zero facts that evidence of a crime would be turned up. No repercussions to Comey or apparently anyway from preventing it from happening again. How do we prevent “officials” like Comey from subverting Democracy?

  24. One should prefer the analysis of John Adams concerning “democracy”. The loose use of the term in this thread indicates severe defects in education. It is now trite to repeat Ben Franklin’s answer to a little old lady who asked of him what the Constitutional Convention had come up with, “A Republic, ma’m if you can keep it”. Keep it away from what? Dopes who want democracy would be my view.

  25. Good essay and comments, thanks all. All this Monday morning quarterbacking and prognosticating overlooks Sherlock Holmes’ “dog that didn’t bark” — President Obama. It’s come to light that he knew of Russian hacking before the election, but didn’t say anything for fear of appearing a partial influence on the election’s outcome. As a constitutional scholar with a brilliant intellect, he more than most of the most educated among us knew and knows the clear and present danger Mr. Trump presents. And he didn’t want to appear a partial influence on the election by sharing that Russians were hacking our elections with cyber intrusions and misinformation? I don’t get it and would sure appreciate hearing some commenters thoughts on that odd behavior. I know Democrats tend to bring knives to GOP gunfights, but standing down completely?

  26. The Mainstream Presstitute Media is responsible for ” FAKE NEWS”. IE – William Randolph Hearst invented yellow journalism – fake news.
    Those who have been awake for the last few decades have known , and warning all the sleepy sports enthusiasts that our American democracy is going down the tubes.
    The election results PROVE that at least 50% Of Americans KNOW that by listening to REAL news outlets like Brightbart , Drudge , and Infowars we are able to go to the polls , and vote a truly unbiased decision about who to run this FORMERLY Democraticrepublican society.
    With all this finger pointing from the left-wing Millennials , one must remember guys , when you point your finger at us , you are pointing 3 fingers back at yourself – in all cases.

  27. Mr. Brandum:

    You appear to be confused about the concept of “FAKE NEWS.” It’s true there is a long history in this Country, and other countries’ as well I’m sure, of “BIASED” reporting or coverage of “news,” events and politics. “Biased” means “unfairly prejudiced for or against someone or something.” Indeed, even deciding what to report as “news” can be biased.

    One local Indianapolis example of “biased” mainstream media would be the Indianapolis Star and (now defunct) News back in the days of the ownership of Eugene Pulliam and his family (the Star is now owned by Gannett though some of the Pulliam family such as Dan Quayle may still sit on its Board). The Star in those days was (and perhaps still is) unfairly biased towards Republicans and their preferred policies and against the Democrats and their preferred policies.

    Everyone, with a lick of intelligence and sense, however, knew the Star was biased towards Republicans. Back in those days, if you wanted to get the news with a Democratic slant, i.e., “bias,” you bought and read the (now defunct) Indianapolis Times because, just as with The Star, everyone knew the Times was biased towards the Democrats and against the Republicans. But as far as I’m aware, no one ever accused either the Indianapolis Star or the Times of just making stuff up and trying to pass things that were patently untrue off on the public as being fact.

    All humans have biases. Consequently, virtually every human in the news business has biases. To some extent, depending on the integrity of the individual and the news agency, it’s probably inevitable those biases will be reflected in what they choose to report, how they report it, and what they choose to emphasize. But “biased” or slanted reporting, while not to be applauded or to promote, doesn’t constitute “FAKE NEWS.”

    No. “FAKE NEWS” isn’t just something you disagree with because it doesn’t reflect your preferred viewpoint or politics. Nor is “FAKE NEWS” where a news report proves to be inaccurate or wrong because the reporter, inadvertently or carelessly or his/her sources were wrong, got the facts wrong. “FAKE NEWS” is where someone or some group or organization makes things up, which aren’t true and which they know aren’t true, to intentionally try to mislead people into believing they are true, and it’s usually done with an underlying motive to promote some agenda.

    An example. Prior to the election, a conservative “acquaintance” included me on an e-mail string he sent out that had a link to a supposed “news story” about Hillary Clinton, which my “acquaintance” believed to be true, from a somewhat obscure internet “news” blog. The story was not only patently untrue and totally without any real world factual basis to support it, but a quick internet search revealed the so-called news “Blog” was a known Russian propaganda front, and that the supposed writer’s name was a pseudonym. My “acquaintance,” however, thought it was real and true because it supported what he already believed to be true; i.e., Hillary is crooked.

    Another example, the recent “FAKE” story claiming Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were allegedly running a child sex abuse ring out of a pizza parlor in Wash. D.C. Totally “FAKE,” but which unfortunately led to some demented person, who believed it was true, going there with a gun and firing shots.

    So Mr. Brandum, you can claim all you want that the “mainstream media (I guess that would have to include Fox News as well?) have historically and still regularly report “FAKE NEWS.” There is, however, no credible evidence to support that claim (not that will change your belief I suppose). On the other hand, I would agree that there is to a greater or lesser degree “Bias” to be found in the mainstream media (definitely including Fox News!).

  28. After reading all of the above comments and educated responses, let me tell you what I and most of my friends feel. They are tired of the white majority in this country paying for the liberal ideas which are making them into a minority. We are tired of rich politicians making rules for the rest of the country that don’t apply to them. Insurance, retirement and social security to name a few. We are also tired of giving aid to people around the world who hate us while needy Americans are forgotten. The other reason is the hard-line stance Hillary took on gun control. I am an NRA member and would like to see sensible gun control but she wants to take guns away period. She and her advisers completely mistook the feelings about this. I voted for Trump only because he says he will do something about the issues I have raised. He is not a career politician and hopefully we can survive his term in office and elect a better representative next time. Hopefully, next time both parties will nominate someone more centered instead of hard line. Democracy demands co-operation instead of “my way or no way” politics.

  29. Mr. Baxter:
    “I voted for Trump only because he says he will do something about the issues I have raised.”

    Let’s see: “Rich Politician.” Trump. “Making rules that don’t apply to them.” Trump. “Insurance, retirement and social security . . . .” Trump and Ryan. (BTW: hope you are 55 or older and have a good job that comes with insurance benefits because if not, you are very likely not to have health insurance, or Medicare or Social Security available to you when it’s time for you to retire.)

    It should be pretty obvious to you now, if you’ve been following Trump/Pence’s selection of Cabinet members, that he and Pence plan to appoint only 1% billionaires who have a history of lining their pockets at their employees’ expense without regard for the good of the Country as a whole; the very people you claim you want out of government. Buddy, you have been hoodwinked by a professional con man.

    Finally, you say you could not vote for Hillary, even though you’d “like to see sensible gun control because she wants to take guns away period.” Hillary Clinton repeatedly — over and over — said she had no desire or intention of trying to “take guns away period.” (not that she could have done so on her own without Congressional approval, which would never happen). What she advocated was more background checks and also the ability to refuse to sell guns to people who were on the terrorist watch list. Period. Sounds like “sensible gun control” to me. You swallowed the NRA’s scare tactic propaganda whole.

    I, too, hope we can survive the man you helped vote into office.

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