Trump vs the press; Trump & the Electoral College; Three cheers for Heather Cox Richardson!

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Look, I really want to get off Trump. But he makes it so difficult!

Yesterday I went off on a rant here about how Trump’s feud with Hamilton and SNL once again sheds light on his autocratic tendencies. Now today we get even more news of that nature, learning that he called a meeting with some major news network executives and anchors. It was all “off the record,” but some details have emerged and they are not pretty. In a move that will no doubt delight his supporters, he apparently blasted the gathering as a roomful of liars, and made it clear that he will not tolerate or cooperate with any news organization or anchor that he deems unfair to him. As we have seen, it does not take much for him to deem someone or something unfair. I know the people that scream all the time about the “liberal media” are cheering this news, but if you know the history of the rise of autocrats, you have to be even more concerned about our president-elect.

There’s an article in The Atlantic that has gotten a lot of attention and criticism from certain folks which argues that the Electoral College was designed to prevent someone like Trump from getting elected, and yet ironically it is the thing that got him elected. There are some inaccurate/misleading statements in the piece (and in fact one that commits a pet peeve of mine–the 3/5ths clause did NOT define African Americans as 3/5ths of a human being!), but its basic premise is correct. More interestingly, it concludes with a call for the Electors to not choose Trump, making the case with four points for why his presidency presents a danger. All four are valid, especially the one about the threat of nuclear war if such an unstable man gets the codes. It points out that back in August, Trump met with a “foreign policy expert” who later reported that three times in a one hour meeting, the now president-elect asked, “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” Further, in an interview with Chris Matthews, Trump said, “someone hits us with ISIS–you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” The article points out the number of times we have come close to nuclear war with even stable-minded men at the helm, so our prospects now are a bit scary. (Let’s also recall that Trump has also stated that he thinks the world would be safer if more countries had nukes).

Lastly, the most ridiculous thing I have seen today is that some young Americans have created a “Professor Watch-list” made up of educators that they believe “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Of course this echoes of McCarthy (but lets not take that analogy too far, these are just some well organized college kids with a group called Turning Points USA, not a government agency), but it apparently does not take much to get on their list. Look, we all know that there are professors that use the classroom to promote their political leanings, and it can be VERY annoying. Throughout my career I have worked hard to keep my politics out of my lectures, but as I have written elsewhere on this blog, Trump made it impossible for me to keep my concerns about the man (not the Republican party) to myself. No, I am not on the list, but an historian I greatly admire (and once briefly worked with on an essay for We’re History) is on it. The inclusion of Heather Cox Richardson (or any professor) is just plain ridiculous. Today on Facebook, she posted a response to being placed on the list that I think is worthwhile reading for everyone. I hope she doesn’t mind my re-posting of parts of it here, but I do so because it is pretty much an accurate expression of my own sentiments—-And I am sure it reflects the sentiments of many of you as well. (The comments in ITALICS below are mine, the rest are Professor Richardson’s).

“It is ironic that this list would label me “leftist.” In fact, in my public life, I do not identify with a political party, and I work with politicians on both sides of the aisle. I also teach the history of American conservative beliefs, as well as those of liberalism. I believe that the nation needs both the Democratic and the Republican parties to be strong and healthy.


It is even more ironic that the list would label me “anti-American.” In fact, I do what I do– all the teaching, writing, speeches, and media– because I love America. I am staunchly committed to the principle of human self-determination, and have come to believe that American democracy is the form of government that comes closest to bringing that principle to reality. This nation is not perfect– far from it– but when it is at its best, it has more potential for people of all genders, races, and ethnicities to create their own destinies than any other governmental system. I work to teach people about that system, its great triumphs… and also its hideous failures. We must learn from the past because the miracle of America is that it is always reinventing itself, giving us the potential to remake it, better, every day.”


“. . .  For the last several years, as I took on a more and more public role, I have focused on the present, hammering on the idea that the ideologically-driven Movement Conservatives who have taken over the nation through the Republican Party are not real Republicans; they are a cabal concentrating wealth and power into a ruling class that is crushing the rest of us. I truly believe that most Americans want not this extraordinary upward redistribution of wealth and power, but rather the same sort of government known in the 1950s as the “liberal consensus,” established by FDR and Eisenhower, that regulates business, maintains national infrastructure, and provides a basic social safety net, while still leaving ample room for private enterprise and the innovation it sparks.”

Pretty much my politics in a nutshell. 

“People have asked what they can do in this moment. Across the political spectrum, I would urge everyone who believes in this nation to focus on the mechanics of government and constantly to call out official actions that you would find unacceptable if they happened to “your” side, especially if it’s “your” side doing them. Call attention to law-breaking that is actionable at a state or national level, rather than focusing on individual outrages (that Russia interfered in the 2016 election is important; a keyed car is not). Do not believe or share any sensationalist stories until you have confirmed them through a site like, and call out those who make assertions without factual evidence.

Oh, wouldn’t social media and the internet in general be such a better place if so!

“Do not mistake legal practices like peaceful protests or government petitions for wrongdoing. If you see something illegal, document it with photos and witnesses and take it to police even if you suspect they will ignore it: continue to demand that the system operate properly. Call your representatives constantly to register your opinions (it matters– most get fewer than a dozen calls about issues at hand).

And I can’t applaud this last bit enough:

“And try to stop demonizing political opponents who fall within the normal political spectrum so we can all stand together against those who are trashing our institutions and our legal system. There are both Republicans and Democrats in my FB feed and you have far more in common than you are different, I promise you. What no one on my FB feeds wants, though, is for this nation to commit suicide, and if those of us who believe in America turn against each other, we will permit precisely that.”

If Heather Cox Richardson is on that list, I think we all should strive to be on it too. 


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