I have been reading Donald Trump’s 1987 memoir, The art of the deal. There are quite a few interesting aspects to the book when you take into account his run for the presidency. Of particular interest are his views on dealing with elected officials and politicians and the inherent weakness of the bureaucratic process. One of his early lessons was that saving money on a government building project might impress the MSM but it doesn’t register with politicians and officials for the simple reason that it’s not their money in the first place.
Trump discovered that the one thing that motivates politicians is the press.
You can apply all kinds of pressure, make all sorts of pleas and threats, contribute large sums of money to their campaigns, and generally it gets you nothing. But raise the possibility of bad press, even in an obscure publication, and most politicians will jump. Bad press translates into potential lost votes, and if a politician loses enough votes, he won’t get elected.
That passage really stuck out at me. Trump speaks of a time when the press was for the most part impartial. And their role was indeed crucially important to hold politicians in line. In fact, seen in this light, our democratic system depends on it. The press is one of the crucial checks and balances that allows democracy to work as intended. Trump’s memoir takes place during the time when Nixon was impeached. It was the work of journalists that uncovered the scandal that lead to Nixon’s downfall. It was the system working as intended.
Not so today. Just a few decades on and the vast majority of the press is in bed with Hillary Clinton. The New York Times, which Trump cites as a bastion of independent journalism in his book, has been reduced to a propaganda broadsheet for the Clinton Democratic Party machine. Television networks are equally guilty. The press is no longer fulfilling its core democratic function of holding elected politicians to account. Instead it is working hand in hand with one side of politics.
Which means that an election is being held with a broken democratic process. Clinton is not being held to account for any of her past crimes and appalling displays of misjudgement. She is not being held to account for her underhanded campaigning which has been brought into the open by Breitbart, (one of the very few news organizations still attempting to redress the imbalances). And all of this means that she will have a free hand to do whatever she wants if she is elected president.
Perhaps Trump came into this campaign with some sort of hope that the press would function as he had seen it function over his long career as a businessman and developer. If he did then he has undoubtedly had a rude shock. While politicians and the political process have indeed betrayed American citizens, in a way the MSM has betrayed them to an even greater extent. The politicians are doing what they have always done. The only difference is that now they can get away with it due to a complicit mainstream media.
In view of all of this it isn’t enough to state that the democratic process in the USA is broken. A neutral and independent press is so crucial to a functioning democracy that its betrayal in this way goes much further than subversion. It means that the USA is a democracy only in name. A partisan press that is beholden to one side of politics is symptomatic of other forms of government that the USA has spent the last hundred years fighting in long and brutal conflicts.
It is tragic to contemplate the idea that generations of Americans sacrificed their lives only for their country to lose the battle from within. What is even worse is that the USA is a barometer for the rest of the democratic world. Australia, along with many other democracies, is inexorably heading down the very same path.