Our pursuit of the truth from the files: Are we the modern American people "too dumb to be self-governing?"
Now that someone like Donald Trump is allowed to run for president within one of our major parties; now that people like Anderson Cooper are allowed to pretend to interview Candidate Trump on TV; are we the people sharp enough to make sensible judgments about what is happening around us?
Increasingly, the answer seems to be no. But for those of us who live Over Here within the tents of Our Own Liberal Tribe, that answer masks a possible problem:
Our own approach to the crisis we face is, at this point, perhaps lacking.
Especially after a weekend like this, it's easy for us liberals to see the craziness of Candidate Trump.
(For Kevin Drum's excerpts from yesterday's Meet the Press, you can just click here.)
It's somewhat harder for us to see the role the mainstream press corps has played, and continues to play, in this downward spiral.
(Drum didn't mention Chuck Todd's apparent lack of preparation when he interviewed Trump.)
(We refer to Todd's apparent confusion about the 22-year-old liberal "protester" who rushed the stage at a Trump event on Saturday and ended up getting arrested. Thanks to Todd's lack of clarity, Trump was able to wriggle away from Todd's critique of his ludicrous comments concerning that event.)
It's easy for us liberals to see the craziness of Trump. We may not realize that our tribe's intellectual leaders often avoid discussing the role of the press in the invention of Trump and Trumpism, a role which stretches back decades.
It's very hard for us to see the role We play in this mess. Before discussing the man who rushed the stage at the Trump event, let's review this news report in yesterday's Washington Post.
The news report was written by Guarino and Johnson. Its hard-copy headlines defined a possible problem with our own tribe's recent conduct.
Below, you see those headlines. The top headline used a naughty word. In the past three days, many pundits and reporters have been avoiding that awkward term:
Organic, organized Trump disruptionThe naughty word is "disruption." As the mainstream press has aggressively swerved against Trump in the past few days, mainstream reporters and mainstream pundits have been avoiding that term.
Student leaders and other engaged Chicago activists planned ahead
In today's New York Times, Rappeport and Haberman provide heroic service as they avoid that term and its implications. To its credit, the Washington Post was a bit more direct in Sunday's news report.
Last Friday night, did Candidate Trump's Chicago event encounter a "planned disruption?" Even on a program like Morning Joe, we liberals are being enabled in our tribal desire to avoid this question.
(Joe and Mika have staged a complete 180 in the past week. On a daily basis, they are now dissembling very hard about their endless past fawning to Trump, who became toxic for them when he refused to condemn the KKK on Sunday, February 28.)
Did Candidate Trump's Chicago event encounter a "planned disruption?" Conservatives are being told that it did, for fairly obvious reasons.
This understanding may drive conservatives to the polls to support Trump tomorrow. With that possibility in mind, it's interesting to see which of our teammates created this "planned" event.
Who "disrupted" Friday's event? At the start of the Post's report, we get our first hint of an answer:
GUARINO AND JOHNSON (3/13/16): The push to disrupt Donald Trump's campaign rally began a week ago, when news first broke that the Republican presidential candidate would appear at the University of Illinois campus here on this city's West Side.If Guarino and Johnson are right, Cameron Miller tried to formulate a plan to storm the stage Friday night, thereby disrupting the Trump event.
Student leaders of campus organizations such as the Black Student Union and Muslim Student Association began organizing their own rally and march to the venue; a Facebook page publicizing the efforts attracted 11,000 people.
Activist organizations, also largely composed of young people, were making their own plans, rooted in the police-shootings demonstrations that have rocked this city for months.
Chicago high school student and frequent demonstrator Cameron Miller, 18, said he and others met twice last week at a local Dunkin' Donuts to examine a floor plan of the pavilion, with the idea of storming the stage in unison during Trump's speech. He said they were prepared to endure physical violence for their actions but agreed not to fight back.
If Guarino and Johnson are right, Cameron Miller is 18 years old and a high school student. In the passage shown below, a certain theme starts to emerge:
GUARINO AND JOHNSON: The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the most diverse college campuses in the country, with no racial or ethnic majority and a student body that is nearly 30 percent Latino.We're not entirely sure what Rojas means by the quoted statement. At any rate, Rojas is 19 years old.
Many students here are particularly outraged by Trump's proposals to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, bar foreign Muslims from entering the country and build a giant wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Trump is putting out a lot of hatred, saying that marginalized groups shouldn't be welcomed here at UIC or Chicago," said Juan Rojas, a 19-year-old sophomore.
Later, Guarino and Johnson quoted someone even younger. In our view, his comment defines a painful problem for those Over Here in Our Tribe:
GUARINO AND JOHNSON: One of the organizers of the November Black Friday protests, 17-year-old Lamon Reccord, said the Trump rally provided an opportunity to show the city that the police reform movement was still active. Days before the rally, he used his extensive list of emails and phone numbers to energize followers to show up outside the pavilion.Reccord, who is 17, says we need "to make the public aware of all these political issues we care about."
"We need more people to make the public aware of all these political issues we care about," he said.
That's an extremely good idea. But how should liberals, progressives and Democrats go about that task?
We thought we spotted a possible problem in that Washington Post news report. That possible problem starts with these numbers: 17, 18, 19.
It also involves the highly sensible desire voiced by one of those young observers—the desire that we progressives should make the public aware of the issues we care about.
In our view, that's a worthy objective. Also in our view, it's entirely possible that Lamon Reccord, age 17, has exactly no idea how to go about it.
There's no reason to think that teenagers, no matter how principled, will have sound political judgment. Traditionally, it has been assumed that the admirable energy of the young should perhaps be wed to the seasoned judgment of elders.
In this case, if Guarino and Johnson are right, some of our younger players decided to "disrupt" Trump's Friday event. In our view, that's a bad idea on the merits. Beyond that, it could easily produce an unfortunate political result.
Whatever happened in Chicago, something else happened the very next day. A 22-year-old Wright State student rushed the stage while Trump was speaking in Dayton, forcing security agents to scramble.
He ended up getting himself arrested, as of course he should have been. Videotape of his previous work is now being widely displayed. Click here; prepare to cringe.
Are disruptions of this type a wise political strategy? Over Here in Our Own Liberal Tribe, we're being enabled by corporate leaders in very unhelpful ways. Our tribal and corporate press corps minders are helping us avoid the fact that "disruptions" have been occurring. They're encouraging us not to think about that obvious fact.
In that very familiar old way, we're being dumbed way down.
Are we the modern American people "too dumb to be self-governing?" Over here in our glorious tribe, it's easy for us to answer that question with respect to the ludicrous Trump.
It's easy for us to answer that question, rightly or wrongly, concerning Trump's supporters. But how about the role we're playing? In this highly polarized time, what can be said about Us?
Many players are working hard to help us avoid that question. That's a form of tribal dumbness, and dumbness rarely helps.
We'll continue these "self-governing" posts all week. We'll work from our immortal "too dumb to be self-governing" files.
Coming this afternoon: Our plans for the rest of the week