HILLSBORO, Ohio — In many parts of the country it can be safely said that, overall, things seem pretty good right now. People know this from the nature of the news that has lately risen to the top of our daily headlines.
It is always instructive to watch the national news from locations outside New York or Washington, from vantage points where Americans shake their heads over the issues deemed significant in the big media centers. Let’s examine a few.
Ensnared by their own trap set during the Brett M. Kavanaugh hearings — scouring through old yearbooks and attempting to make high school or college behavior relevant to fitness for public service decades later — Democrats and many in the media now find themselves duty-bound to apply those same impossible standards to politicians they would otherwise embrace.
Millions of Americans find it remarkable that a stupid decision to don blackface or include an offensive photograph in a yearbook more than 30 years ago results in more alarm than much more recent comments by the same Virginia governor — comments made this year, while serving in office — defending what many interpret as legalized infanticide.
Likewise, the heralding of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as something akin to a native of the island paradise Themyscira, home of Wonder Woman, and her depiction in the media as Trump-slayer extraordinaire have been nothing short of mystifying. According to various news accounts and pundits, Pelosi, in just a few short weeks, has brought President Trump to his knees.
But for others, Pelosi’s behavior has been predictably obstructive. Her mugging during the State of the Union address was bizarre, and her mocking applause in the president’s face churlish. Trump, setting a good example for once, ignored her. Can we imagine the firestorm if a male speaker of the House applauded that way in the face of a female president?
Rushing to judgment and alleging racism with scant evidence has become a troubling epidemic. For example, after the initial, misleading characterization of the confrontation last month between students from Covington Catholic High School, some of them wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, and a Native American activist, the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “The red MAGA hat is the new white hood.”
In standing by this judgment even as the Covington story evolved significantly from early reports, Milano ignored a number of key differences between the white hood and the red hat, the most important being that the hoods of the Ku Klux Klan concealed the faces of the cowards wearing them. The faces of those who wear MAGA hats are completely identifiable, since they believe they have nothing for which to feel shameful. Milano’s comment is indicative of the hyperbole applied in today’s political environment, but countless non-racist, non-bigoted MAGA-hat wearers shrug and go about their day.
The only recent headlines hinting at anything that would have qualified as big news in the pre-hypersensitivity era were connected to the negotiations to avoid another government shutdown. The last time around, Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) claimed to be aggrieved at the impact the shutdown had on 800,000 federal employees. And yet, their anxiety did not extend so far as to agree to the modest $5.7 billion for border barriers that would have kept the government open and federal workers on the job, leading many to view their tears as the crocodile variety.
Another misleading but consistent storyline is the notion that how Trump’s base reacts to his agreement to sign the bipartisan deal to avert the shutdown will be determined by right-wing radio talk show hosts or conservative cable TV commentators. It won’t.
Meanwhile, that old standby, the Trump-Russia collusion probe, has so far produced little more than crimes and alleged crimes that came about as a result of the investigation itself (perjury, witness-tampering, etc.). Nevertheless, Democrats such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) have made it clear that investigating Trump, with or without evidence, will be their main pursuit, guaranteeing two more years of alarmist headlines — the only meaningful result being Trump’s reelection thanks to voter backlash to Democratic Party overreach.
To be sure, each of these topics contains elements of legitimate news. But the extent to which they have dominated our headlines, news feeds and broadcasts is disproportionate to their true import. Many of the issues center on political payback, or someone feeling offended by someone else. The latter should be settled by a simple apology, but we do not permit such a civil resolution these days. For many, banishment is the only acceptable adjudication.
In the meantime, millions of Americans scan their favorite sources to see whether any big news is happening. Based on what they see and read, things are obviously pretty good right now.