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On Donald Trump, have we finally learned our lesson? | Column
Do we finally grasp that in the face of a clear and present danger, one must report it with the gravity it demands? We can only hope.
U.S. Constitution with stars on blue field background.
U.S. Constitution with stars on blue field background. [ Dreamstime ]
Published Dec. 7, 2022

Last week, Donald Trump finally crossed the Rubicon.

Leonard Pitts
Leonard Pitts [ File photo ]

That is, he took to his social media platform and, for the first time, issued an explicit call to abolish the U.S. Constitution — the document he once swore to “preserve, protect and defend.” Still fuming over widespread election cheating that exists only in his wounded ego and fragile pride, Trump declared that “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”

Thus, does fascism shed its last fig leaf. Republicans, is this your king?

We find ourselves at a dangerous milestone. For all the talk of his declining influence, Trump remains the face of the GOP and our government is stocked at all levels with his acolytes. What happens if they take seriously his claim that the Constitution is null and void?

Yes, it’s unthinkable. Just as a band of citizens attacking the U.S. Capitol once was.

Let’s be clear: We brought this on ourselves. It’s what we get for playing fast and loose with our civic responsibilities in 2016. It’s what Republicans get for being too feckless to put nation above party. It’s what voters get for acting like Hillary Clinton was Cruella de Vil in a pantsuit and sensible shoes. And it’s what news media get for normalizing the abnormal in the apparent conviction that to do otherwise would prove — gasp! — bias.

Shame on CNN for giving Trump millions of dollars in free advertising, for covering his rallies with a wall-to-wall urgency denied less entertaining presidential aspirants.

Shame on The New York Times for framing him and Clinton as candidates both carrying baggage, when her baggage was clearly carry-on while he was dragging steamer trunks behind him.

Shame on The Wall Street Journal for its prissy equivocations in declining to define as “lies” repeated falsehoods from the most prodigious liar in U.S. history.

A pox on every one of us, every reporter, editor, anchor or producer who failed to frame Trump’s rise as the danger it transparently was.

Too many news professionals duck the idea of making such judgment calls in deference to some largely mythical beast called “objectivity.” What they forget is that there is no such thing as news without judgment. Reporters must be fair, yes, and balanced.

But that does not mean they may not report the obvious. Trump certainly was that. He never hid his ignorance or his malfeasance. To the contrary, they were part of his appeal. But too few journalists were willing to say that. Instead, they became addicted to the sugar high of ratings and attention he produced — what crazy thing would he say or do next? — and promoted it, ignoring the threat it posed.

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As former CBS CEO Les Moonves infamously gloated, Trump’s candidacy “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Now, again, the bill for that bacchanal comes due. Should we take this latest threat seriously? Of course we should. Trump and his followers would storm the National Archives and run the Constitution through a shredder if they could.

The better question is: How will journalists report it if that happens? Will they parachute into red state diners for a “both sides” view of shredding the Constitution? Or have we finally learned our lesson? Do we finally grasp that in the face of a clear and present danger, one must report it with the gravity it demands? We can only hope.

Democracy matters. We should all be biased in favor of that.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

© 2022 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.