Washington Monthly - September/October 2016 - 14

TILTING at windmills By Charles Peters By Timothy Noah 2016 isn't 1968 A lot of people have been comparing 2016 to 1968, and there are some parallels: racial turmoil, angry politics, violence. Just about everyone I know who's around my age-I was ten that year-remembers a parent saying the same thing, usually in the same words: "I don't understand what's happening to this country." That's what my mother said to me after Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were killed. America felt violent, unpredictable, and full of unappeasable rage. This year doesn't feel, to me, as frightening or out of control. Maybe that's because I'm older, but there are real differences. Young Americans aren't being drafted to fight in a distant unpopular war, political leaders aren't being picked off by deranged assassins, and a oncepopular president isn't taking the extraordinary step of canceling his bid for reelection. Despite Donald Trump's aspiration to re-create 1968's law-andorder election (with Trump cast in the unflattering role of Richard Nixon), the violent crime rate isn't doubling, as it did during the 1960s; it's halved over the past two decades. When we look back on 1968, we understand that its tumult was mostly a reaction to large and abrupt shifts in societal arrangements concerning race, sexuality, and deference to any sort of authority. The current year is quite different. Americans are worried not about sudden disruptions but about problems of long standing like wage stagnation, growing 14 September/October 2016 income inequality, Islamist terrorism, Pompeo's scoop prompted Alan Murray, easy access to military-style firearms, chief content officer at Time Inc., to take and police brutality. The only really rap- exception. "Baker's lecture is totally apid change has been in social acceptance propriate, and even necessary," Murray of homosexuals and, now, transgenders, wrote in an email. "The fact that there's and I'd be very surprised if LGBT issues barely a single person in the press corps play much of a role in the general elec- who supports Trump, but a sizable segtion; Trump just doesn't feel comfortable ment of the nation [that] does, suggests discussing them. Otherwise, the issues we have to bend over backward to make that voters are worked up about aren't sure we give our readers fair coverage." new. People don't feel scared so much Margaret Sullivan, press columnist at the as fed up. Still, between mass shootings, Washington Post, wrote in reply that "a Donald Trump's unfriendly takeover of considerable amount of bending over has the Republican Party, an endless stream already taken place," and that those press of videos showing police killing African outlets that called Trump on his many Americans, and (at this writing) two fa- falsehoods were typically answered with tal ambushes by African Americans on "insults and threats." Sullivan warned police, I wouldn't be surprised to learn against inventing a "false equivalency" that parents once again are sharing their between the candidacies of Trump and anxieties with young children. This time, Hillary Clinton. though, I'd guess they're putting it in False equivalence is precisely what the the past tense. Not "I don't understand Wall Street Journal's Carol Lee and Reuwhat's happening," but "I don't under- ters's Jeff Mason-the outgoing and instand what's happened." coming presidents of the White House Correspondents' Association-conveyed in a July op-ed in USA Today protesting The futility of trying to the treatment of the press by the two normalize Trump presidential campaigns. First Lee and The press really can't figure out how it's Mason cited Trump's refusal to grant acsupposed to cover Donald Trump. In May, cess to certain reporters "because the Joe Pompeo reported in Politico that Wall candidate doesn't like a story they have Street Journal editor Gerry Baker had ad- written or broadcast." They then conmonished editors to be "fair" to Trump tinued: "Similarly, refusing to regularbecause he was a serious candidate, and ly answer questions from reporters in a because many serious people would sup- press conference, as Hillary Clinton has, port his candidacy. Pompeo took this- deprives the American people of hearquite reasonably, I thought-as a sign ing from their potential commander-inthat Rupert Murdoch, who owns the chief." Similarly? Really? The Huffington Journal, was getting behind Trump. But Post's Michael Calderone, the Washing-

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2016

Contents
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