The Democrats channel Ronald Reagan, while Donald Trump continues to own the news cycle. That, plus Bill Clinton plays with balloons.
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The nominating conventions are in the books, and we are now in the final 100 days of the presidential election. We looked at the Republican National Convention last time. Now, it’s the Democrats’ turn.
I thought we saw political theatre of actual consequence from both conventions – very rare for the polished infomercials these events have become. Both parties displayed friction. The continued resistance by Bernie Sanders supporters got the DNC off to a rocky start, spurred in no small part by email leaked by (Russian?) hackers suggesting the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton throughout the primary. Set up for a freefall into chaos, the Democrats used their convention tried to redefine American politics.
Shield laws were a major subject of conversation in 2013. They exist in 40 states to protect journalists from court orders to reveal confidential sources. The idea is that in order for the press to fulfill its watchdog role, dig up the truth, and expose corruption, it must be seen as autonomous. If journalists are but one subpoena away from spilling the beans, then the press is little more than an arm of the government… and then what source with something to lose is ever going to speak out?
As we learned in 2013, shield laws get confusing when a journalist’s work crosses state lines, and that even when a subpoena is eventually overturned, the professional damage may already be done. (Lauren Kirchner, Columbia Journalism Review)
And what of perhaps the biggest story of the year – the expansive surveillance of U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency? What if Edward Snowden did not choose to reveal his identity? What if the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman had to protect the source of leaks that threatened national security? Nevermind Snowden’s primary confidant, Glenn Greenwald, the American citizen living in Brazil writing for a British newspaper. British authorities, by the way, exercised prior restraint, destroyed Guardian computers, and detained Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, under anti-terrorism laws. So while we’re not unjustified in our concern for U.S. policy, we can remain thankful for the First Amendment’s prominence in our jurisprudence. (Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian)
Never in U.S. history has a journalist been tried for passing along information that someone else stole. The press actually doesn’t have many rights beyond those of ordinary citizens – but rebuffing subpoenas and publishing stolen information are two pretty nice cards to have in a muckraker’s back pocket. You try keeping that nice stereo your sketchy friend sold you for ten bucks…
But in 2013, the Justice Department pushed back against those rights in an attempt to prevent the leaking of unseemly information to the press. The DOJ’s actions, as luck would have it, were leaked.
After all of the campaigning, all of the political posturing, all of the polling and remarkably reality-defying punditry, all of the… noise, the election finally happened. In its wake, we saw the worst of people on social media. I counted a few particularly rogue Facebook statuses that had been deleted by Wednesday. A handful of dumb students reflected poorly on the University of Mississippi.
The whole thing makes us crazy. But credit Governor Romney and President Obama, because perhaps the greatest moments of a multi-year campaign came at its end.
This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation […] Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work, and we citizens also have to rise to occasion […] [W]e look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics. – Mitt Romney, Concession
I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.
And together with your help and God’s grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth. – Barack Obama, Acceptance
How gracious in defeat was the governor? How re-energized and inspiring was the president? With the burden of the campaign finally removed from each man’s shoulders, we saw what we had been looking for the entire time. In the fog of war, divide and conquer was the master plan, when we the people were looking for sense and civility all along.
Calls for unity. Calls for effort from citizen and servant alike. Calls for prayer. The invocation of God, for one night, not a political province of the right but a hope for one nation.
Maybe it won’t last. Probably it won’t last. But on the night when so many Democrats were gloating and so many Republicans were forecasting the fall of Rome, Mitt Romney’s campaign website was streaming Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in a simple gesture of solidarity. And so, on Election Night, this disaffected voter watched two men emerge from battle, wondering where philosophies like these were one week earlier, and what will have happened to them one week later.
Go vote. It’s a right and a privilege, and as I found out this year, there are a heckuva lot of people involved in making elections work.
For the first time in my life, I voted absentee. Barely. In early October, I requested my ballot from my home county circuit clerk’s office, only to see the weeks pass without a ballot arriving. When communication with the office failed, I sought the aid of my secretary of state’s election division to remind the folks in my county to do their job.
It was a mess of phone calls, record keeping, and legal actions. I was thankful for the good I saw in public servants – I must have gotten aid from five or six different people in the S.O.S.’s office, many of whom called me. Yet, the well-documented incompetence of one county’s election infrastructure seemed too much to overcome in time to exercise my right to vote.
This was going to a blog post about voter disenfranchisement, a system that failed its displaced constituency. Fortunately, the cogs and gears fell into place, and the system came through for me without a moment to spare.
So it seems my ballot will be among those counted this year. And it should feel better than ever before. This time, it took real time and effort – to make the calls, to fill out the paperwork, to find the notary, to beat the deadline. This time, my vote came with hardship. This time, I valued the notion of our representative democracy and what it meant to have a voice.
It should feel better than ever before. But it didn’t.
My television tuned to the network morning programs; my browser displayed a handful of news sites and Twitter. With breakfast in hand, I was in full breaking news mode Thursday morning, awaiting word of the Supreme Court’s opinion on the Affordable Care Act. More simply, healthcare reform; more partisan, Obamacare.
A few minutes after 9 a.m. central time, every major news network was on the air, trying to be the first to summarize the 193-page opinion. CNN, the former cable news king now in dire need of ratings, was the first major source to make a declaration. Individual mandate: Unconstitutional. Healthcare law: Thrown out. On-air, online, on social media, through email blast, CNN was ready to celebrate an all-out, multi-channel, breaking news of the year scoop!
Except they were wrong. A misreading of the opinion, they claimed.
It used to be that getting a scoop mattered. Beating a competitor by an entire day in a printed newspaper really meant something. But today, when information is disseminated over various channels within minutes (or seconds) of each other, does being first really mean that much? Is it worth being wrong? Ask CNN. Sure, the tagline could have read: “We get you the news 11 seconds before the other guys.” Enviable, to be sure. Instead, they made “The most trusted name in news” read like a relic from a time when their newsroom had some sense.