Fellow journalists: If Trump’s elected, drop everything

The papers tell me that the Donald has at most a 20 percent chance of winning the presidency. That should be a relief, I guess. But then again, I wouldn’t be terribly excited if given the choice of walking through five different doors and behind just one of them lay a terrible cross between 1984 and 1933.

Twenty percent is too high, people. It’s too high—way too high—for comfort. And it’s growing, I see. Since I started working on this little complaint, the forecast from FiveThirtyEight has climbed to a 35 percent chance of a Trump victory.

Thirty-five percent is too high.

Benjamin Wittes, the editor of Lawfare, has very correctly said that we need some kind of insurance policy against a Trump presidency. Not to get rid of him if he does end up—God help us—as the duly elected president of the United States. But to keep the inevitable disruption to a minimum. To make sure his fantasies of extrajudicial retribution remain just that. Fantasies. To brace for the tsunami of shit after the Trump-Ego tumbles, loaded with narcissism and pettiness, into the deep end.

Wittes proposes a Coalition of All Democratic Forces, and I rather like that name. Here’s how Wittes introduces his idea:

The fundamental division in the United States today is not between Left and Right but between, on the one hand, a populist mob enraged by elites and fundamentally seeking to blow up Washington and, on the other hand, all of those people who—whether liberal or conservative in orientation—aren’t willing to throw out our fundamental values, ally ourselves with dictators abroad, demonize whole ethnic or religious groupings, and indulge the notion that things like expertise don’t actually matter in government. …

I want to suggest that whether one is a liberal or a conservative or a centrist, one needs to see oneself first as a member of the country’s democratic forces, and for these forces to prevail, they need to be in coalition—if not in agreement—with one another.

Wittes has a lot of recommendations for what people like him—liberals and conservatives concerned about the rules of law—can do to combat the excesses of a Trumpministration. For instance, he encourages lawyers to offer their services pro bono in actions to challenge any illegal Acts of Trump or to defend those menaced by the Trump Steamroller.

I’m a journalist. I think that journalists have a role in the Coalition, too. And not just because Trump has a habit of talking about journalists as though we were Beelzebub himself. (I don’t think I need to say who Satan is in this analogy.) Trump’s hostility to the scribbling classes and in particular his less-than-veiled threats to topple those who stand in his way (including journalists) by using the machinery of state in less-than-constitutional ways—these would be reason enough to warrant an extraordinary response on the part of the press.

But the press has an interest other than self-interest. Journalists are professional witnesses. This is the entirety of our job. There’s a reason that journalists get to watch executions: Somebody has to be there when our government kills one of us. Or—purely hypothetically—starts rounding people up for mass deportations. Or gives even the slightest hint that it wouldn’t mind torturing some folks.

And because we are professional witnesses, journalists have a place in the Coalition of All Democratic Forces as the look-seers. It’s what we already do, we watch and listen. But if Trump does hit his sweet spot, we’d better go into overdrive. No one quite knows what will happen if he wins. Frankly, I’m not ruling out civil unrest if he loses.

Either way, it will soon be the job of America’s journalists to paint a horrifying portrait of their country and to ruthlessly scrutinize everything that the tiny-handed demagogue does. Many will loathe them for this. Many will cry: “Liberal bias!” To which I say, if it’s liberal bias to doubt the motives of a man who has as much as promised to jail his opponent without trial, then paint me blue and pack me on the first train to New York “Liberal Hellscape” City. (Joke’s on you. I’m already there.)

The thing is, Trump is allergic to facts. No, he isn’t allergic. He is completely indifferent. After an assassination scare in Reno yesterday—in which hyperactive Trump supporters surrounded and assaulted a protester with a “Republicans Against Trump” sign and somebody yelled “Gun!”—the Donald’s campaign waxed eloquent about evading this latest, nearly fatal attack. You know, a silent man in his mid-30s brandishing a paper sign.

It doesn’t matter what the press writes, how much trouble it goes to to get the facts straight, or how many bits of evidence surface that Trump is a barely competent if overgrown Oompa-Loompa who shouldn’t be trusted with a fork near an electrical socket, let alone with the US military. Trump will never stop talking about journalists as though we’re all paid by the Clinton Foundation. He will never stop whipping up his supporters with brazen untruths and incomprehensible speeches.

The only thing for it is to document those four years—please let it be only four years—in excruciating detail and to pray that the other wings of the Coalition of All Democratic Forces do their job, too.

Hunker down everyone. And get your notebooks and smartphones and recording devices ready. With luck you won’t need ‘em.

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