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The rampant hysteria being generated by Donald Trump’s surprising run at the Republican presidential nomination is both needless and potentially destructive. It is being exacerbated by Trump’s narcissism, his scorched earth campaign, and the appalling indecency of his incendiary and tasteless style; but also it has been abetted by a complicit media.

Complicit Media

A Complicit Media—Lance Simmens and Richard Dreyfus

For whatever reasons, the mainstream media is far more interested in political theatre than political history and therein lies the potential for a Greek tragedy that could possibly tear at the foundational fabric of our representative democracy.

For whatever reasons, the mainstream media is far more interested in political theatre than political history and therein lies the potential for a Greek tragedy that could possibly tear at the foundational fabric of our representative democracy.

It is time for journalism to reclaim at least some degree of respectability by focusing on facts, and the most salient fact facing our political system this summer is that open conventions do not spell disaster. It is important for everyone to relax and for the media to perform its job, which is to report pertinent and inarguable facts.

Contested or brokered conventions were, for the better part of our history, the norm not the exception. The rules for both parties had been traditionally that if a front-runner was even one vote shy of the number of votes needed, and no one could be persuaded to give him the needed voted, there was another ballot, and then another.

In 1924 the Democratic presidential candidate was selected on the 103rd ballot after nearly three weeks of wrangling. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the product of a brokered convention in 1932. Thomas Dewey secured the Republican nomination in 1948 and Adlai Stevenson got the Democratic nod in 1952 after brokered conventions.

As recently as 1976 Gerald Ford secured the Republican nomination after arriving at the convention without the requisite number of delegates and in 1980 there was an active effort at the Democratic convention in New York to secure enough delegates away from incumbent President Jimmy Carter to give the nomination to Ted Kennedy that failed.

The time the ballots took allowed for dickering, and wheelin’ and dealin’; time for promises to be made and allegiances to shift or strengthen. This was not only an attack against front runners, because there were times that the balloting procedure gave the front runner the votes to take him over the top.

Presidential nominations are secured via the vote of delegates, not the number of states or the popular vote. The two major parties set the rules for delegate selection and the conventions are held to render a process whereby nominees are selected.

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The current hysteria being generated pays little heed to political history or precedent and for this the Fourth Estate has been contemptible in its ignorance. No news outlet could blithely skip over fundamental facts and their context in political history. Certainly in today’s nation they could not claim that Americans know their civic history. They don’t because it’s not taught anymore. Political facts that are immeasurably pertinent are completely unknown.

While it appears as though the latest iteration of a Republican strategy to select someone not named Donald Trump is now taking shape in the form of citing the historical precedence of nominating conventions, the obvious question remains: namely, where has the media been?

TV journalism has been extraordinarily weak, emphasizing one story a night, while the banner that travels at the bottom of the screen tells us of other, important stories that are never picked up by the anchors or commentators. The media in its choices of what not to say can be inciting to riot as vividly as the protestors they cover.

The danger to our representative democracy lies not in the fact that there exists a restless and angry populace but rather in the fact that the narrative ‘that efforts are afoot to deprive or worse yet steal the rightful coronation of the Donald’ are being fueled by a complete lack of historical perspective. We do not live in a pure democracy, the Founders made it quite clear in their construction of the Constitution that checks and balances and deliberation would be the lynchpin to stability.

Compromise, deliberation, and incrementalism are the hallmarks of our system of government, which may come as quite a shock to the extreme elements on both the left and the right, but it is right there in the document itself and the Federalist papers which serve as the foundation of our government. The media needs to take special care not only to educate the citizens on the facts but also to present a fair and balanced presentation of historic precedent, especially if by not speaking to it an angry and violent atmosphere takes place.

We as a nation have weathered nomination fights and political storms that would destroy other governmental forms and we will similarly weather this one. The reckless and dangerous admonitions that anything other than a Trump nomination will result in riots is a testament to the amateurish temperament of a fool. Giving credence to such recklessness by accepting incorrect statements that can and should be easily correctable while the media offers only silence is a testament to the utter failure of the media to do its job. Shame on them.

But it is not too late. Beginning forthwith we are calling on the media to devote considerable efforts in their broadcasts and election cycle presentations to bring forth the enlightenment that accompanies factual experiences and events that have shaped the nation. It is imperative that the media shoulder the burden of not giving comfort to the enemy of representative democracy.

Make no mistake that the enemy in our midst is the contention that anger and violence is sufficient rationale for abandonment of the core principles of liberty, justice, and equal opportunity. Allowing emotion to substitute for rational discourse is an abdication of everything the Founders promulgated and purely and simply unpatriotic.


Lance Simmens and Richard Dreyfuss

Republished with the authors' permission from Huffington Post.