I am an ordinary voter living far from the Beltway who feels gaslighted by our political and media establishments regarding the Russia investigation. Our current Yanny versus Laurel political moment is probably confusing even for professional political commentators. But for ordinary Americans it is a bewildering, disorienting spectacle.
Which is it: Is Donald Trump a threat to the republic, or is the deep state the threat? Was the Russia investigation legit, or was it concocted by an out-of-control Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency? Was it an FBI “informant,” or was it a “spy”?
Has America become Venezuela, as Republicans say, because the Obama administration spied on the campaign of a political adversary? Or has it become Venezuela, as Democrats say, because our current president is attacking his investigators?
The answers to the above questions depend on which camp one is in. In our hyperpartisan times, each side has its own narrative.
Each Side Couldn’t Be Farther From the Other
The Democrats and their supportive media outlets (CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times) have been saying for a year that Trump and his campaign likely colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will eventually find proof of it, and that Trump will, as a result, get impeached.
Those on the Right point to the various leaks and reports to say there was no collusion, the Russia investigation was a set-up to undermine Trump’s presidency, and that the investigation needs to wrap up.
Looking at all of this, one wonders: If Watergate had happened today, would there be a bipartisan, national consensus that the president had done grave misdeeds and needed to resign? Probably not. There would be two narratives, each spinning madly, with no consensus.
I’m a Democrat, and it would be easier to accept my side’s version of unfolding events. It would certainly make my life easier when talking with my liberal friends. But facts are pesky things, and I’ve become increasingly aggravated by my own side. It seems the desire to win the 2016 election and Trump hatred has not only warped the Democratic political and media establishments, but exposed them for what they are.
Yes, Trump is intemperate, narcissistic, and the most unconventional president ever. But it appears that his opponents in our political and media establishments are far worse: they wanted to subvert democracy to save it from Trump; they wanted to thwart the will of Trump’s 63 million voters and not just undermine his presidency, but to concoct an investigation to impeach him and get him out of office.
Looked at this way, it appears that Trump’s election is vindicated for many reasons: There appears to be a deep state in this country comprising both Republicans and Democrats, which will not abide an outsider president.
This Is a Horrible Look for Democrats
Meanwhile, my fellow Democrats aren’t in a good spot: They are increasingly becoming the kind of low-information voters they despise and think are only on the other side. For instance, a 2017 poll showed that a majority of Democrats (52 percent) believed Russia tampered with vote tallies in the 2016 election to help elect Trump, despite no evidence. That is akin to 69 percent of Americans believing in September 2003 that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Further, many of my Democratic friends are in the dark about many of the smaller events and facts surrounding the Mueller investigation. They don’t know, for instance, that a federal judge, T. S. Ellis, rebuked Mueller for trying to target Trump. They don’t know that one of the Russian companies Mueller indicted for tampering in the 2016 election, Concord Catering, didn’t exist at the time of the election, and that when they showed up in court to contest the charges, Mueller was unprepared to proceed with the case.
This isn’t entirely ordinary Democrats’ fault, but that of the legacy media outlets they rely on for their news and analysis, which have let their audiences down completely. These media outlets (CNN, ABC, NBC, The New York Times, etc.) have devoted little or no time to many of the stories that “help” Trump or fail to advance the Russia collusion narrative. For instance, ABC, CBS, and NBC together spent a total of just 153 seconds covering Ellis’s rebuke of Mueller.
This Is Not Just a Media Problem
There is only one word to describe CNN and MSNBC’s coverage in the last year and half: grotesque. They’ve gone so over-the-top with their anti-Trump coverage, so lacking in self-awareness, that even criticizing them seems like a waste of time.
But I sense a bigger problem on the Democratic side, both among ordinary Democrats and prominent left-leaning pundits. In the Trump era, many seem unable to grasp irony and facts as it applies to their own side. For instance, when they talk about Trump violating the rule of law or obstructing justice, don’t they realize that some of us are thinking: Yes, but where were you when the FBI didn’t apply the rule of law to Hillary Clinton, and why didn’t you object when Hillary obstructed justice by deleting emails under subpoena? Shouldn’t the rule of law apply to everyone?
In these troubling times, I’ve been grateful for the commentators on the Right who’ve explained what’s happening and put it in perspective. I’ve also appreciated people like Mark Penn, who broke with party lines and loyalty to the Clintons to speak the truth of what’s happening. His reason, of course, may not be just to defend Trump but to defend the rule of law and our democracy.
Everything that happened in 2016 and 2017 needs to come out in the open: the botched FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the surveillance of Trump’s campaign, the shady origins of the Russia investigation. There needs to be a reckoning.
There needs to be a reckoning for the mainstream media as well, as to why, as one critic said this week, they’ve acted as “lapdogs for the Deep State and propaganda arm of the Left.” Maybe I’m not a good enough Democrat, but I’m far more troubled by what is happening to Trump than by Trump himself.