Big Tent Democrats – Social Issues & Press

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If I Disagree On A Social Issue Can I Be A Democrat?

Imagine a voter that accepts the entire Democratic social agenda with the exception of one issue. And on that single issue they do not advocate any change of the party’s position. They remain a loyal Democratic who gives and votes for the party despite that one position. Maybe they acknowledge they might be wrong on that one.

But, it is increasingly hard to go to some Democratic events and listen to what used to be policy discussions of difficult social issues reduced to “you are either with us or you are a ______”.

It is about respect. If you have a committed Democrat who believes broadly in the Party’s  values on abortion, civil rights, the environment, poverty, early childhood education, Medicare, Social Security, and that competent and responsive government can be a force for good but disagrees on one high profile issue, are they a Democrat?

“I Am Not A Member of Any Organized Political Party, I Am a Democrat”

As Will Rogers knew, purity leads to a small tent. In 1976 when Jimmy Carter won he was an evangelical Christian, the party had plenty of NRA members, and although pro-choice allowed pro-life speakers. The payoff was a competitive South and other parts of the country where Democrats remain uncompetitive today by between 5 & 10 points.

It is about a loss of respect President Trump drives, but we should not follow. Social issues should be about policy and healing, not fundraising and division.

Cozying Up to the Press

Since 1980 the quality of press coverage has dropped dramatically.  On the front page of every paper or digital newspaper are opinion pieces masking as hard news, particularly regarding government. Their purpose is often sensationalism to drive digital advertising.

What Democrats have been slow to realize is that Americans of all political stripes value the role of the press, believe journalists should be free from fear, but are tired of today’s press.

The basic structure of the First Amendment under the New York Times vs. Sullivan standard means the press is not accountable in the courts, in Congress, or before the executive branch. The press forgot it was accountable to American eyeballs.

Several Colorado journalists have commented on Twitter on my piece on reform at the Denver Post that there is nothing wrong with the paper. Your circulation is down and your profitability is so bad you have to become a hobby business for the uber rich (Bezos at Washington Post, Sulzberger at New York Times, and now Soon-Shiong at Los Angeles Times). The public’s trust, particularly amongst non-Democrats is at an all time low.

The data is crystal clear as is the press denial of it.

The thing that made the press different, hard news basic journalistic practices, is often missing. And once the press loses the hard news discipline there is really no reason to subscribe to a paywall. The same quality of opinion saturated reporting is available for free everywhere.

Democrats have for too long believed that a fawning press spouting Democratic policy as hard news was an asset. But instead it is the basis for President Trump’s “fake news”. And “fake news” harms not just the press, but Democrats.

Democrats should insist that the press clean up its act. Not attack the press as President Trump does, but push it toward basic journalism standards. The press is disliked because it has lost its way not because of President Trump. Instead of reporting that all the major poll averages indicated President Trump had a one in three chance of winning, they were writing hard news stories about Secretary Clinton’s “administration in waiting” and her efforts to rack up seats in the Senate.

Worse, we Democrats believed it, relaxed amidst the Clinton coronation stories, and got President Trump.

We need three or four points in Red America. Putting a little distance between Democrats and the press for the right reasons will help us to power. It might also force the press to reform in response to its readership.

And for the press to regain its reputation and influence, reform not denial, is essential.

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