Last week George Orwell’s “1984” topped Amazon’s bestseller list.
The media reached its obvious conclusion that the sales were a clear reaction to the Trump administration’s claim there are “alternative facts.” Therefore, according to the media, the public feels it necessary to brush up on its dystopian fiction because clearly that is where America is heading.
Let’s not get carried away here. We’re a long way from a society that has mechanisms like “memory holes” to revise history.
Still, we’re less than two weeks into the Trump presidency and there are some pushing the notion that the United States is barreling toward this nightmarish vision.
Haven’t we seen this before? Democrats have a chance to put some points on the board against their opponents, but instead of kicking a field goal on fourth and long, they throw the Hail Mary pass for the end zone.
Basically, we’re at the fun-with-hyperbole-stage. And at some point, all these continuous protests will lose their effectiveness.
Republicans aren’t immune to this behavior, either. During the Obama presidency, the GOP made the same sort allegations — that the administration was using Orwellian tactics and the American democratic republic was doomed forever.
We remember the rise and fall of Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement. Some of that was legitimate — the role of government, the expanding entitlement state. Some of it was hysterics — Obama a secret Muslim from Kenya, he’s coming for our guns and ammo.
This recent phenomenon is teetering on the edge of hysterics. Nonetheless, it is proof that the pendulum swings back and forth.
One major difference is that this time is the press is taking it personally.
Opinion journalism has grown in prevalence over the past 30 years. In other words, it is a relatively new trend in our political system. Mostly that is attributed to a 24-hour news cycle requiring programming to fill broadcast time on cable channels. But with consolidation in the media the press backlash against this president is amplified.
So understandably, if the Trump administration declares war on the press there is going to be a meme that will snowball from, “this is not presidential” to “we’re headed down the path of Dear Leader’s North Korea!”
Arguably some of this is on the Trump administration for not taking a nuanced and sensitive approach while rolling out his policies. But as a consumer of news, one must look at everything in context. Sometimes Trump is combative with the press. And in return, the press is combative back.
All the tension on TV screen about “alternative facts” and Trump making unprecedented moves has sent us to a boiling point.
The protests we are seeing across the country are an emotional reaction to the negativity many see on their television and computer screens each day.
We’re at a point where people are willing to go to an airport and protest one of the more recent Trump executive orders, which halted immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Imagine putting your Sunday plans on hold to go to the airport — where parking is $6 per hour and a Coke is $4 — and protest.
This is not at all unlike Nixon’s first term. Nixon had his run-ins with the press. Some in the press would push back and accuse his administration of employing Orwellian tactics to defend the handling of the Vietnam War and to explain away the unfolding Watergate scandal.
The years of Nixon’s first term were regarded as the “golden years” for those to the left of center. There were anti-war protests, free love, Woodstock and artists like Hunter S. Thompson — who whipped himself into a frenzy and waxed poetic about that screw-up Nixon.
But what did that mean politically?
Put simply: The left overreached. The Democratic Party went so far to the left — driven by the likes of what you have seen this month with protests against Trump — that they incorrectly believed the mood of the country was in their favor and nominated George McGovern of South Dakota for president.
What happened next? Nixon won 49 states in a landslide. Of course, it didn’t end well for Nixon, as we all know. But his downfall had little to do with any of the protests. It might have created a little paranoia within Team Nixon and made them feel it was necessary to stage a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington. But it’s unlikely this current wave of protests will result in another scandal of that proportion.
To Trump’s opponents: Cry “Orwell” at your own peril. Using Saul Alinsky radicalism to fire up the base will mean the far left, which is not in the mainstream, will call the shots and once again you will wind up overreaching.
And that will mean eight years of Donald Trump instead of just four years.