I thought it would end today. Heaven knows we’re all ready for it to end. I’m not talking about the Trump presidency, I’m talking about the media’s obsession with it.
Instead of the media refocusing our attention on the work ahead, what did I wake up to? More Trump. News programs and headlines discussing the pardons, or who is and who isn’t attending the Trump sendoff vs. the inauguration. There are even articles in major newspapers about our exhaustion from four years of Trump news. How was this irony lost on those publications?
Finally, I found a show with a panel of highly distinguished historians. This is going to be good, I thought. What was the first question? “Let’s talk about the man leaving office today.”
I listen to NPR or music on my morning commute. Even NPR was unable to resist airing extended clips from Trump’s farewell speech at Joint Base Andrews and news commentary after. I had to switch to music. Trump’s only role today was to cede the stage to Biden. He could not do that. So why does the media have to keep handing him the microphone?
The media’s addiction to Trump hit a fever pitch after January 6, just when we needed them to get us ready for the challenges ahead. Biden and Harris were hard at work, and we were ignoring them. Their policy plans on crucial issues like immigration and Covid-19 were barely covered by the press. The message from the Biden Harris team was we won, now let’s get stuff done. Serious people were in charge again and getting an early start, because they knew the problems were big and pressing and the country had to make up for lost time. If the media wants to be taken seriously, it should do the same.
I understand the events of January 6 were horrific and there must be consequences for its perpetrators and enablers, but when you think of the long list of urgent issues facing the nation you have to ask yourself — did we really need so much coverage of a guy in Viking horns?
What lies ahead is one of the greatest problem solving predicaments our nation has ever faced. It will require us to be better, smarter and more united. There will be complex policy battles long overshadowed by selfishness and pettiness. Anyone who thinks real, lasting change is a slam dunk because Biden won does not understand government.
But that’s the problem, right? We don’t understand how government works. We don’t appreciate how truly difficult it is to get it right — to craft legislation that will pass in bipartisan fashion, write words that will achieve a common goal, and make those words last. The term “government hack” is thrown around, but legislation is not for the intellectually weak, and coalition building requires Mensa levels of emotional intelligence and ninja-like social skills. We should champion those in government doing this work, and make it unacceptable for others to keep playing the games we saw over the past four years.
Instead of educating and informing us on how government can solve problems, the media feeds us sound bites. We willingly eat them up because sound bites don’t demand much of us. They are so easy to repeat that we don’t even realize we’re parroting lines fed to us because they sell well. Sound bites lull us into thinking we know something, but get us nowhere.
We don’t have time to waste on sound bites or Trump, not anymore. We don’t need the media to keep telling us what most people already know. The majority agrees that Trump is a threat. That’s why we voted him out, and won Georgia (it would be nice if you covered that historic victory a bit more, too). Corporations and institutions have broken ties with Trump, now it’s the media’s turn.
This will take restraint. Chances are Trump won’t grow a Gore beard and fade into the background. But for all of the media’s outpourings of patriotism since January 6, this is their chance to do something. Please do not make the impeachment hearings into yet another Trump distraction. Shift the public conversation back to facts, science, logic and real discourse. Doing this will — dare I say — make this country great again.
Biden closed his January 6 speech with, “Enough is enough is enough.”
It is good advice for all of us.