The best reporting in 2016 came from Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold on the Trump Foundation because he focused on one issue and pursued it like crazy.
For those horrified by Donald Trump’s actions, it can be overwhelming. It’s human nature to want to fight every battle. But it’s also impossible.
That’s why the Trump game plan involves putting as much objectionable activity into action as possible to distract the opposition. As the Muslim travel ban was overwhelming the news cycle, it temporarily obscured Steve Bannon’s absurd inclusion on the National Security Council.
It is a daily, vicious cycle that continues unimpeded. Every day brings more noise, more nonsense and more attacks on democracy. On Monday night, it was the acting Attorney General being fired for doing her job. On Tuesday morning, it was Betsy DeVos caught plagiarizing her written answers to Senate. To say nothing of Trump’s disastrous first military action, the impending vote on Jeffrey Sessions as Attorney General and the new Supreme Court nominee.
That’s why I implore everyone who is angry and confused to decide what is your absolute, number one issue and make that your focus. By no means ignore other pressing issues, but make sure you have one, concrete issue that you own. You do the research. You keep your social circles aware of developments. You lead the way.
For me, the run-up to the 2016 election was eye opening in terms of the ridiculous – and illegal – lengths that Republican-controlled states were going about voter suppression. While I had long heard rumblings about it, it was far too late for me when I discovered the depths our elected officials had gone to suppress minority votes.
Nothing hit me harder than a court ruling that described North Carolina’s efforts as targeting black voters with “surgical precision.” Those two words – surgical precision – have stuck with me since I read them. It’s hard to even comprehend.
We have a Republican Party that purports to care about Middle Americans, and then specifically goes out of its way to prevent American citizens from voting. It’s the most repulsive, disgusting political tactic – a holdover from the Jim Crow era that should have been long gone.
Instead, it’s not. So my personal issue to champion is voting rights. It makes me sick to my stomach to not just think about people losing their right to vote – but to think that our elected officials in some Republican-controlled states are going out of their way to impede the rights of American citizens.
This is not right and I will not stand for it.
Unfortunately, it’s far from the only issue impacting democracy and threatening the American way of life.
Let’s take the Muslim ban for instance – I am certainly horrified by the order, and I was proudly protesting outside the White House, a week after joining the Women’s March. But if I want to properly make an impact in the voter suppression fight, I can’t also devote a significant chunk of my time to the Muslim ban or women’s rights – for those I need to support others.
So that’s why I suggest that within your social circle or group, everyone takes ownership of an issue that means the most to them. If I take voter suppression, you can take the Muslim ban, another can take women’s right, and so on and so forth.
Harkening back to Farenthold, the failure of journalism in 2016 was the desire by reporters to be everything on every beat. When I started as a newspaper reporter in the halcyon days of 2003 – we had enough people to carve out many, specific beats.
In recent years, as media companies have shed talent, those beats have morphed into one person doing too much. This was compounded and exploited by Trump during the campaign, because it became impossible for any reporter to keep up. The quantity overwhelmed them, while Hillary’s coverage was much easier since there was just one topic on the beat – emails. Ugh.
As we move forward in resisting Trump, everyone needs to determine their own beat. Once you find it – own it. Volunteer. Donate. Write. Share. Protest. Do what you have to do to engage others to join your cause*.
*If you care about voter suppression like me, I suggest getting involved with the Brennan Center for Justice: https://www.brennancenter.org/
When others ask you to join their cause – you’ll be there to stand up and add your voice. I won’t be leading matters on women’s rights, though when I’m called upon, I’ll be there to do what is needed to help. If that means marching, or calling Congress, or donating, I’ll be there.
We cannot let the sheer volume of objectionable actions dissuade us. They want us to be fatigued from fighting back. By owning one issue, we’ll remain fresh for every battle on the horizon.
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