Some of you may be familiar with Steven Waldman‘s excellent book Founding Father: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty. I follow Waldman on Facebook and I thought one of his recent posts about the role of the press in a Trump administration was on the mark.
Here it is (quoted with permission):
I keep reading my journo friends urging the press to step up its accountability function. I definitely agree. But something is gnawing at me. What if it wouldn’t matter? To me the story of this election is not the news media’s mistakes but the news media’s irrelevance.
We’re in a new world where the informal information system is more influential than the network news. It’s not just Facebook but also email, pop-up websites, extremist soap boxes – all rising as trust in professional media and objectivity declines.
Think about this latest question of whether Trump is financially benefiting from foreign governments in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Let’s say The New York Times and the Washington Post report the hell out of this, and find that it’s true. Would it even matter? The power of the press is to influence public opinion. But what if the public – or the part of the public that just elected the president — is just not believing “the press”? What use is accountability reporting in that case?
I was thinking about this earlier when another Facebook friend asked if Trump’s practice of selling rooms in his Washington hotel (near the White House) to foreign diplomats, and his pressuring of Scottish officials to vote against an offshore wind farm because it obstructs views on his golf course, might be considered abuses of power.
In some ways it doesn’t really matter. Does it? Who is going to prosecute Trump for such abuses? Certainly not Congress. And if Waldman is right, the press is irrelevant. After what I witnessed during the campaign, Trump can essentially get away with anything for at least the next two years.