After nearly a half-century of committing journalism, I’ve changed my mind. Not about journalism, but about the journalist as private citizen.
For all my professional life, I have been publicly apolitical. I have avoided partisan politics because it was important to me that I preserve the appearance of fairness. I never made political contributions, never campaigned for political candidates.
I maintained this arm’s-length stance — try that in yoga class — through nine presidents and 12 elections.
But this time, it’s different. This time, I’m afraid for our country. And so I have marched. I marched with about 100,000 people in this year’s Women’s March in Seattle. I marched with even more last year. I marched alongside women carrying signs that read, “Vaginas brought you into this world, Mr. President. Vaginas will vote you out.” Alongside men carrying signs that read, “I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA.” And alongside children carrying signs that read, “I’m not allowed to act like the president.”
Some friends and relatives think marchers like me are being silly. “We put up with Obama for eight years and didn’t pitch a fit,” they say. “Why are you getting so hysterical about Donald Trump?”
Because this time, it’s different.
We’ve had presidents I liked and presidents I loathed. As an opinion writer, I occasionally weighed in on their perceived successes and failures. But never in my lifetime have we had a president so inarticulate, so incurious, so intimidated by opposition. Never have I seen a president so dishonest, so disagreeable, so disinclined to behave like a world leader.
Donald Trump is so badly informed that he invariably says things that are not only untrue but also unbelievable. This example from a recent interview provides perfect illustration. It’s Trump’s reply to Piers Morgan’s question on climate change: “There is a cooling, and there’s a heating,” Trump said. “I mean, look, it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level.”
None of the foregoing is close to accurate, but Trump gets away with it because he or his spokespeople utter inaccuracies — I’m being kind here — with such astonishing regularity that it’s impossible to focus on one for more than a nanosecond.
And so I resist because this time, it’s different. Whenever I read historical novels about World War II, I always identify with people who fought in the resistance against the Nazis because, doggone it, all good people would fight the Nazis, right?
Apparently not. It’s easy to ignore — or pretend to ignore — the open bigotry of the Trump presidency, the abject cravenness of the Trump presidency, the breathtaking greed of the Trump presidency if one’s personal situation isn’t directly threatened. It helps explain why big companies like Boeing kowtow to the Trump administration for fear of retaliation that would affect their bottom lines and their shareholders’ temperaments. Better to go along and say, “Dilly dilly!”
Sorry, but I can’t go along. Accommodationist CEOs shouldn’t, either, because currying favor with a president who openly espouses a whites-versus-others approach to these “united states” isn’t good leadership. Throwing up one’s hands as if to say, “How bad could Trump’s legacy be?” is also a bad idea because, in just a year’s time, Trump has shown that his legacy will be an isolated, fractured, unwelcoming America with a diminished standing in the world.
For these reasons, I choose to resist.
John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.