Distrust in our government must be at an all-time high, or at least comparable to the Watergate years.
Donald Trump certainly didn’t create the distrust; instead, he capitalized off it for a phenomenal rise to power. But now he’s as much a part of the problem as any other Washington insider, and is even creating problems that didn’t seem to exist before he hit town.
Take his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity as an example. There’s scant evidence of widespread voter fraud, but that’s not stopping Trump. He won the electoral vote, which vaulted him in office, but he can’t seem to get over the fact that he lost the popular vote by about 3 million votes. So he created his pet commission, named Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to head it up, and promised to sic the dogs on this incredibly important, and largely fabricated, issue.
To get the party started, the commission asked all 50 states to provide some very specific voter information—individual voting histories and party identification, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your address, and more—so the commission’s work to expose fraud can get underway.
But straightaway the whole thing hit a snag. State election officials are refusing to give up the information, including New Mexico’s secretary of state, Maggie Toulouse Oliver. She was one of the first state election officials to flat-out refuse to provide the information the commission seeks.
“… I will never release the personally identifiable information of New Mexico voters protected by law, including their Social Security number and birthdate,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “Further, I will not release any other voter information like names, addresses or voting history unless and until I am convinced the information will not be used for nefarious or unlawful purposes, and only if I am provided a clear plan for how it will be secured.”
Talk about not trusting government: Here’s a government official who doesn’t trust government. And she’s not alone. As of this writing, CNN says the count is now up to 44 states and the District of Columbia saying no to the commission’s request. That includes a lot of Republicans, so it’s not simply a partisan issue.
Welcome to the age of distrust, Mr. President. Be careful you don’t become the poster child for our collective disbelief.
Still, the concern over voting integrity could be a valid one—if one were to speak to the real reasons for a corruption of our elections. Money matters way too much in who gets elected and who doesn’t. Gerrymandering has helped to polarize the nation into two factions, also known as political parties, and has discouraged reasonable compromises. Foreign interests have found ways to distort the issues and the candidates. And the national media outlets have come to hold too much sway over who gets our attention and who gets discredited.
Moreover, in this era of fake news, it’s hard to know who we’re really voting for anymore—up to and including the President of the United States.
Unfortunately, a deeply partisan divide splits the issue of election integrity. Essentially, the Republicans benefit from voter suppression while the Democrats benefit from one big free-for-all. And, of course, this great divide goes all the way to the top of the ticket, where an Electoral College gives strength to rural states at the expense of majority rule.
But that’s another issue for another time. For now, let’s just watch to see if President Trump can emerge from this latest problem he has created for himself without looking like a fool who got bested by a states’ rebellion.
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Earlier this year I wrote a column about Snopes.com, a excellent site with which to offset the infiltration of fake news in today’s media. In it, I localized Snopes’ investigative work by calling attention to “rumors” such as: Trump plans to rename New Mexico, and an “Islamic refugee” was caught trying to blow up Deming. Neither are true, as Snopes digs in and points out.
Now I’ve got a new one to add to our New Mexico fake-news list. The body of Bigfoot has turned up at Elephant Butte Lake!
Snopes tracked the report and its supporting photo (a body-bag type depiction) to a “prank” website, saying that someone “used a photograph of a Russian tourist who passed away on a beach in Italy in 2013 and combined it with fictional text about Sasquatch.”
Maybe the president needs to create a commission to look into this. After all, such fraudulent reporting can leave a mighty bigfoot print.
Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.