One of the reasons I’ve maintained this blog for more than 10 years is as an effort to hold myself accountable. I want to make sure I know in the future where I stood on something.
I am the publisher of a news organization and still operate as a community journalist. I do maintain the dated and increasingly unpopular opinion that journalists do have a responsibility for prioritizing policy, over politics. That is, though I don’t believe in an “objectivity ideal” and despite the anti-media climate we are in, I still prize journalists fighting for results and data and something resembling a shared truth. This is unpopular work, but I think it’s important.
So I try very hard to maintain relationships and dialogue with people I think are smart who hold a variety of nuanced perspectives on a range of matters. This includes local and specific issues, and national and global ones.
I’ve struggled in the last few years, as journalism has been derided and a growing list of conspiracy theories have blossomed. To write the obvious: Donald Trump is particularly divisive. Look no further than the historic election turnout in which 160 million Americans voted (anti-candidate voting is a commonly understood trend in election theory, so he drove both those who voted for him, and many who voted against him.)
I am quite able to track important achievements that have taken place during his presidency: Black and Brown people had historically low rates of unemployment before the pandemic, and there is bipartisan support for challenging the Chinese Communist Party, given reports of humans right abuses for Uighurs. For all the many related failings, the federal government’s initial response to the pandemic-related economic shock was effective and we produced vaccines with historic speed.
Nonetheless, I’ve always believed his combative rancor and leadership style (unprecedented turnover) were simply too corrosive for the presidency, our political system and national identity. His political opportunism routinely drove him to court overt racists — the “very fine people” of the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally, for example. I’ve personally experienced the divisions he’s caused.
But for all of that, it was his increasing insistence that he would not accept the results of the election if he didn’t win that compelled me to go beyond the traditional role of a journalist. Before November’s election, I wrote a public endorsement for the first time in my career, and I openly courted others to follow that recommended.
I felt like I didn’t have any other choice. I wouldn’t sit it out, and I am not actively involved in reporting on elections. I felt like I crossed no boundary, and that I would be disappointed if I wasn’t publicly clear about my view.
The very foundation of our democracy fails when a candidate won’t accept its rules. After Trump lost the election and 60 failed court appeals, he continued to antagonize with his baseless claims, feeding a Big Lie that brought his base to a frenzy. He was recorded pressuring an election official to override the democratic election he held.
Then this Wednesday, he gave another of his false-laden speeches at a rally, including this: “After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down. We’re going to walk down any one you want, but I think right here. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Then hundreds of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol during the certification of the next president. It was a kind of attempted coup, featuring some of the worst extremists our country has.
This is so far beyond the treason and high crimes standards for impeachment of a U.S. President.
I feel so challenged as a journalist who wants to maintain credibility in listening to political range. But this step has proven easier. It’s my professional responsibility to be clear that I know these to be lies and conspiracy theory and anti-Democratic behavior. Those who know me well know my personal feelings, but the storming of the U.S. Capitol has made this professional too.
No matter that we’re just a dozen days from the transition to the next president. I believe Donald Trump should be removed from office, whether it be via impeachment or otherwise.
I don’t believe this counters my role as a journalist, I believe it is an example of me following through with my professional and personal commitments.