What Trump's Presidency Reveals about America & Its Politics
Anyone can become president.
This long-time myth of American democracy (i.e., that is any native-born citizen, 35 or older may be elected president), tested several times during the 20th Century presidential elections, became reality with Trump's successful bid in 2016. He has no discernible skills, knowledge, or experience in political or public office at any level, i.e., local, state, federal). He has not experience as an officer in a publicly held corporation or organization, nor does he have any experience as a director or manager of a local, state, or federal agency. He has never directly managed more than a small staff made up of mostly his family. He has acknowledged that his academic credentials were paid for and not earned, that he never read a book even the ones he had ghost-written for himself.
As of this post, he's still in office. His administration has been clouded by reported malfeasance, corruption, double-dealing, conjecture, and unprofessional behavior. His associates, including a personal attorney, campaign staff, cabinet members, and White House staff, have been indicted and sentenced for lying to Congress, lying to the FBI, and other felonies related to campaign activities and acting as foreign agents. Still, no direct connections between Donald Trump and alleged criminal activities have yet been proven.
For his political base, he has succeeded in reforming tax law and fulfilling campaign promises regarding immigration and reversing business, environmental, and banking regulations established since the 1999 Dot-com recession and the 2008 Great Recession. Whereas some of the electorate may feel his executive orders and legislative victories undermine progress in reducing environmental, financial, and social threats to a stable economy, nevertheless Trump has one way or another succeeded in making changes.
A free press must peddle fake news to survive.
Fake news is what a free press sells; it's the main source of sustaining operations and making a profit for any press or media enterprise. The reasons are numerous, and I can't all of them here. Sadly, very few officials, commentators or critics of the press (that I've read) acknowledge the underlying assumption of a free press: that it is not supported, owned or financed in any way by government. The assumption is rarely observed elsewhere in the world, and the USA is somewhat unique among nations in applying that assumption. Note, for instance, that many legislators feel uncomfortable allocating tax dollars to support NPR or PBS. On very strict theoretical terms, government funding for news source restricts its freedom from government control.
Thus, the press or media, as we call it today, must support itself through sponsors or advertisers, subscribers, and/or donors, one or more combinations, representing a financial investment of some kind from private individuals, businesses, or organizations. The financial sources are supposedly solicited by the publication's ownership or management to further some mission of informing the public or contributing to the greater good of the nation or community it purports to serve. The cost of daily operations, interest payments, investor returns, staffing, leasing presses, internet sites, servers, etc., must be met in order to sustain an enterprise and gaining and retaining advertisers and subscribers means meeting their expectations for content, perspective, status, and prestige. To argue otherwise is to ignore business pragmatics and this historical record.
When we look at the history of the press/media in the USA and the standards it sets for journalism or reporting, there is only one standard that means anything: breaking news. Unless you're breaking news (with one caveat: that it doesn't lose sources of revenue), you're not going to sell, or in other words, you're not going to get read, viewed, hit, clicked, replied, polled, shared, tweeted, or blogged. If breaking news isn't your mission, then you're some else, a periodical, scholarly journal, monthly or weekly publication with a mission other than selling news. For my purposes here, I don't have time to explore the purposes of media whose mission is not selling news. They are numerous, complex, and generally funded by endowments, educational institutions, or organizations for purposes of collecting, evaluating and critiquing carefully verified information and data regarding topics of interest is small, self-selected groups. To confuse that press/media with the general news media confuses Trump's point and the point of most conversations about fake news.
So, we observe that historically and practically, the media must sell fake news that changes, updates, shifts, and undulates the passions and emotions of its addicted readership every day if not every hour. The process of breaking a story and then using that ongoing unfolding flower of the story's details, perspectives, truths and untruths, is how media creates value and income. To argue otherwise, despite any alleged standards of journalism, is to ignore history and business pragmatics.
Fake news is true and untrue.
Just because a breaking story appears on first reading to be true or untrue doesn't mean that it will eventually be true or untrue. Indeed, if we were the graph the change in a news story's perceived truth and untruth over a period of time, the alternating wave of perceived truth/untruth would slowly lose its rate of change and narrow to a point of zero change as it approaches 100 years, especially after classified documents become released to the public. The graph would look something like this (see illustration below):
Most news media are not interested in following a story to its eventually accepted truth or rather post-truth perceptions, what might be called its "mythic" value. Usually, that process unfolds in the periodic or scholarly literature. Unless the eventual post-truth point relates to a breaking story, the media doesn't have a reason financially to publish it. Hence, a story's truth or untruth generally has very little relationship to it's news value.
Elections are rigged.
All elections in the USA have been rigged since the beginning of the republic. This claim isn't really news of any kind. Those who have had election campaign roles or responsibilities know that elections are rigged, unless for some reason they weren't paying attention. To the point, one of the most demanding tasks, requiring lots of skilled volunteers as well as staff, is verifying the accuracy of the vote at the local ward or district level. The governments (local, state, and federal) of the USA have never been democratically elected by a majority of the electorate. The notion that everyone gets to vote is a myth. The Constitution and the history of elections in the USA reveals clearly that only those whom the owners of government allow to vote get to vote. First, only white male property owners were allowed to vote. Eventually, white, male, non-property owners were permitted to vote, then women, then persons perceived to be of African-American descent. But even then, as the polls were opened to wider groups of adult citizens, not everyone was allowed to vote. The local ward or district chair and co-chair, frequently a husband-wife partnership in some regions, ultimately controls who votes and whose votes get counted.
Early in my amateur career as a poll-watcher I came into contact with unethical ward chairs. They frequently barred me from standing within a 100 yards of the poll. And, they often wouldn't allow me to witness the vote count, not even to watch the machines be unloaded (back in the paper poll records) and tabulated. That was so even though I had identified myself as an official poll watcher for a local candidate in the Allegheny County (PA) elections. Ward--aka voting district or precinct, whatever they are called in your state--voiting district chairs or party representatives have enormous control over what machines are used, made available and get counted, so much so that any election can be rigged with just the slightest inclination of party machine operators (Democrat or Republican). Trump is right: Most elections are rigged at one or more levels, in one or more regions, in one or more states, depending on how much money is put in the right hands to "manage" the outcomes. He's not right in the implication that only urban and Democrat Party machines rig votes, however. Republicans are notorious for their efforts as well, e.g, the 2018 9th Congressional District Election in North Carolina.