Today’s political news cycle is so fast, chaotic, and hard to follow that it can sometimes be easier to give up and pretend that nothing is going on. Conversely, it’s just as easy to get swept up into the storm. To follow every twitch of the Trump administration, faux pas from the Clinton family, revelation from the Mueller investigation or any other scandal, newsworthy event is an addictively time-consuming task. While often done in good faith, this strategy is nearly impossible. There is so much going on that there is no possible way to be informed about every important event. There are stories that undoubtedly pass through the public eyes without being scrutinized by the people that need to see them. This is a problem. Whether you are shutting yourself out of the news storm or attempting to stay on top of every story that gets reported on, there are plenty stories we are bound to miss.
What is being missed?
There are plenty of important examples of nearly missed stories that haven’t gotten their 15 minutes of fame. Examples include the defeat of a rule that “would have ensured consumers had the right to sue financial institutions” or the further delay of a new Environmental Protection Agency federal air pollution regulation that even the organization itself “believes that the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children.” Or the removal of the Borrower Defense Rule, which made it “simpler for students at colleges found to be fraudulent to get their loans forgiven” by the Senate. If it hadn’t been for other events going on at the time, all these stories likely would have been front page stories, allowing these less than helpful policies to receive the outrage they deserve.
What are we seeing instead?
Major news events aren’t getting the coverage they deserve because of the chaotic nature defining today’s news cycle. A news cycle is so bloated with newsworthy events and major happenings that, for every report, multiple stories are getting left in the dust. It’s even worse when important events get bumped out of the cycle by something trivial, like, let’s say, the grumpy ramblings of a 71-year-old man, with wispy blonde hair and unnaturally orange skin.
On Oct. 24, when the Senate defeated a rule that would’ve allowed consumers to sue financial institutions, Donald Trump, our President, ranted on Twitter about Sen. Bob Corker and bragged about how high the stock market had gotten. When the EPA delayed a rule that would help fix a safety risk that disproportionately affects children, Trump instead congratulated the Clemson football team on their National Championship victory and celebrated the opening of a coal mine in Pennsylvania. These examples are just a few of many. They’re small examples of a massive problem that Trump has.
The office of the President has many constitutional powers that are officially stated in the Constitution: Commander-in-Chief, Head of the Cabinet, and the power to veto to name a few. But most of the office’s power comes from ideas not specifically stated in the constitution, but are the responsibility of the office nonetheless. These powers include being the Head of Foreign policy; moving troops around the globe; and acting as the bully pulpit, a term coined by the (capital B) bully himself Theodore Roosevelt. The bully pulpit is when you’re in a position of power where if you speak, people will listen. The President has this power 24/7. The bully pulpit is one of the powers that gives the President the power to shape national policy; however, as Uncle Ben might say, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
However, Donald Trump is not a responsible person. Instead of the bully pulpit being used as a force for good, such as Abraham Lincoln using it to push for reunification of the Union and end slavery, Trump uses it with no clear goal in sight. Treating his power like a child might treat a hammer. They know how to use it, and what it is used for, but once you leave them alone, it is much more likely you’ll find broken windows than anything constructive.
While Trump may or may not have a malicious intent with his incessant tweeting, we know it isn’t doing any good for the country. Every time he tweets, a news story gets forgotten in the dust as the public’s eye moves to watch his very public outrage. The tweeting distracts from policies from all over the political spectrum, from Bernie Sander’s Single-Payer healthcare to Paul Ryan’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Whichever side of the aisle you are on, the President’s distraction of the public harms your agenda. But luckily, we are in a position of power here to do something collectively.
What can we do?
We must focus on policy initiatives and federal changes. When we go to search for the news, we must dig through the fluff of Trump’s outrages or the inconclusive Russia investigation and look for the events that will affect us. We must be looking for stories and call for meaningful scrutiny policies that will change how we live our lives. Policies like the FCC’s repeated attempts to destroy Net Neutrality, new gun control attempts, the removal of fifty-two environmental policies (twenty-five went, nineteen in progress, eight in limbo), and the legalization of workplace discrimination against the Transgender community. All these things have gone under the radar during the Trump administration, and there will be countless others unless we, as the public in a free democracy, change. Like it or not, the public can dictate what goes mainstream. We choose what to share on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. We choose what to listen to, watch and read. Stay informed, and stay active. Look for meaningful news.