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None of This Is Normal

This piece is was originally only for Political Wire members. By popular demand, I’ve made it freely available. Please consider becoming a member to support the site.

Several weeks after President Trump took office, I received an email from a highly-respected political journalist:

Far be it from me to tell you how to do your business but for the first time in the years I have been reading the Political Wire, it is getting a discernible tilt toward the Democrats.

Is this really what you want to do? I have always striven to be seen as playing it down the middle, even-handed, fair by both sides, and have seen you as doing the same. Professionally speaking, I think it makes sense.

This is not meant in any way to be a criticism, but wondering whether it was inadvertent. Personally, in the age of Trump, I have had to work extra hard to stay in the middle.  He doesn’t make it easy.

At the time, I had never felt more confident in running Political Wire, but this observation gave me pause. I’ve thought about it nearly every day since.

I’ve concluded it’s not possible to “stay in the middle” in the Trump era because that suggests politics is on the same playing field as it’s been in the past. But none of this is normal.

We now have Republicans like Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) saying — on the record — what’s been obvious all along: Donald Trump is supremely unfit to be president. He is, as a friend recently said, “an impulsive, angry, uninformed narcissist with a tenuous hold on reality.” We’ve had bad presidents before but we’ve never had someone who really shouldn’t be in the office.

The news media deserves a large part of the blame. Contrary to Trump’s constant complaints about news coverage of him, much of the reporting is actually profoundly biased for Trump by pretending he’s competent. Too much of our current political news coverage implies we’re still within the bounds of normalcy.

The Republican party has been slowly breaking apart for more than a decade due to ideological inconsistencies. The Democratic party isn’t in great shape either — as evidenced by tremendous electoral losses at all levels of government over the same time period. It’s an important and interesting story and one that Political Wire is well-suited to cover.

But the much bigger story — one which throws political journalism out of its comfort zone — is that we’ve elected a dangerous man who is unfit for office. The elected members of the party he hijacked are the only people who can do something about it. So far, they refuse to do so out of fear of angering those voters who somehow still support Trump.

It would be a luxury to have political arguments about the best way to solve our country’s problems. I miss the days when liberals and conservatives could argue about the best way to provide health care or which tax reform plan had a better chance to improve the economy. But today is just not that time.