Following politics can be enough to make you volunteer for the first flight off this planet to Mars. Yet many can’t help but consume every tidbit of information that comes out over the course of the day. This obsession is a result of the 24 hour news cycle combined with widespread access to technology and social media. Politics have become simply inescapable.
That Donald Trump is the top news story each day shouldn’t surprise us; he honed his talents in the realm of reality television, after all. He relishes the attention. Even in the primaries, he demonstrated a remarkable ability to stay in the limelight and to pivot away from gaffes that would have sunk any other candidate. The problem for Trump now is that the stories dominating the headlines, many of his own making, have been largely negative, leaving his team scrambling to find creative ways to spin the narrative. Instead of relying on spin, however, the administration has taken advantage of that aforementioned obsession with the latest news.
Case in point: over the last few weeks, questions about Betsy DeVos’s qualifications as Secretary of Education were supplanted by headlines dedicated to National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s contact with Russia and his subsequent resignation, which in turn were replaced by headlines questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s own contact with the Russian ambassador. Then the Sessions story was put on the back burner amid accusations by Donald Trump that former president Barrack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Follow that story with a Wikileaks dump of classified CIA documents and all of a sudden there’s little air time to devote to each. The news cycle, by its very nature, buries stories quickly and that lack of coverage may be just what the White House wants.
Whether by chance or design, the news media is effective at inundating us with content until there is no telling what the original story was. By asking viewers to follow a new lede every day, the focus has been taken off some of the less flattering stories surrounding the Trump administration. That’s not to say the White House is actively supporting this system, but they have certainly benefited from it.
So now the news media finds itself in a strange place: it is the very mechanism by which this deluge of information happens but at the same time it is the role of journalists to keep politicians honest. Where can balance come from? The answer is: us, the public.
Journalists have a responsibility to continually pursue breaking news, but they are a limited resource. That leaves the public with the responsibility to demand action when stories call for it. Try not to lose sight of the real issues through the white noise. As much as the White House would love to sweep these negative stories under the rug forever, they haven’t disappeared and many warrant investigating. Demand it. This mindset applies to Congress too. Politicians love to sign bills into law without debate; it makes their job easy. Don’t allow them to sneak by while we’re distracted by the latest Trump tweet.
Should you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by what looks like an uphill battle, that’s okay. Take a step back to recharge. Do something you enjoy. Go for a walk outdoors. Read a book. Take a little break and come back refreshed and ready to fight for the causes you believe in. Because change only comes if you ask for it and we’ll need every voter for the long haul.