By now, it’s likely you’ve seen – or at least heard about – the president’s latest rally in Tampa. The one featuring one-fingered salutes and obscenity-laced screams and shouts at the national news media. These actions were a direct result of the president repeatedly calling the news media the “enemy of the state” and “among the most disgusting individuals” he’d ever met.
I was called many things during my 30-plus year journalism career. I don’t ever recall an occasion when somebody referred to me as their enemy. They may not always have agreed with me or the stories produced by the news staff, but I know the public trusted us to deliver the day’s news without any nefarious agenda; they told us so through countless letters and their viewing patterns which made us the most trusted and watched news in the Northland.
Unfortunately, much has transpired in the news realm in the short period since I retired. While Donald Trump still occupies the Oval Office, more people now have difficulty differentiating factual news statements from opinions – Republicans are far more likely to classify a news statement as factual if it favors their side.
According to a new Pew Research study, just four in ten Americans have a lot of trust in the information provided by national news organizations. As an example, just 63 percent of Republicans believe this to be a factual statement: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.” I simply cannot believe this is in dispute.
I have opinions about why our president allows the sort of demonstration we witnessed in Tampa to continue at each of his campaign-style events. I assure you this has not and would not happen at any event I was a participant in – I simply wouldn’t allow it.
At my campaign announcement following our 8th District convention, I signed a civility pledge promising a campaign based on respect for one another and for the positions we take on the issues. I knew I wasn’t going to agree with the campaigns of my DFL challengers or those of my Republican opponent. I did know that our campaign would be honest about our disagreements and provide our positions as clearly as possible without maligning anyone’s integrity.
Just as you have, as time has allowed I’ve followed social media postings. Sometimes, I almost wish I hadn’t. The people who occasionally manage my social media when I’m traveling or unable to quickly respond have generally allowed those with political differences to voice their opinions without any filters. It’s true we have removed some comments from those individuals who have used obscenities or have openly attacked the character and integrity of others. As I said, I simply do not want to be associated with allowing hate speech to be part of this campaign.
This does not make me anyone’s enemy, nor do I consider those who have acted in a manner I consider offensive my enemy. We simply disagree on how best to get our message across. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”
People who don’t realize how important information really is need look at the Soviet Union that no longer exists. We put our future in peril when we dismantle one of our founding principles: that of a free press. It is time to begin rebuilding the supports for an era of openness and trust. The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself. We are a better society than that which we witnessed in Tampa earlier this week. We are Americans first. We put our country above our politics. At least we used to.
If you believe that truth still matters I hope you'll consider voting for me in the August 14 primary election. As Margaret Mead once said:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever does."