Meador: A colossal job lies ahead in wake of this election

Although Democrats and other anti-Trumpers could be forgiven a moment of jubilation, both should, in fact, be urgently focused elsewhere. Today’s ebullience should be tempered by the gaping chasm that’s become our political landscape.

The urge to celebrate — or the visceral instinct to seek revenge — must be put aside as we ponder why one half the country isn’t speaking to the other half.

When both sides are firmly convinced they hold the moral high ground — and make no mistake, they are now — hope dims that we’ll be able to work this one out. But as one who’s preached unity for so long, it’s difficult for me to reach that moment.

Guest Writer

Guest writer Matthew Meador landed his first newspaper gig as a columnist at a weekly paper in 1984. Among the last of the moderate Republicans, Matt’s friends have always been Democrats. For every one issue people fight over, Matt is convinced we have at least 100 things in common — he believes if we talked out most of our differences, we’d find we were closer than we thought.

Half the country has checked out. With little fuss or fanfare, 50% of the electorate has disengaged from the mechanisms we’ve always used to oil our orderly society.

To be sure, it took more than political factors to foster this separation.

The internet displaced normal media to the point that newspapers died by the hundreds and even broadcast media played catch-up. The resulting hybridized soft news blurs together events, commentary and entertainment. That and the endless commentary of the 24-hour news cycle erased the line between news and opinion.

Further, on social media, where almost anyone who can sound halfway intelligent — and quite a few who can’t — can produce “news” blogs firmly slanted to the tastes of his audience. Suddenly, our traditional sources of information are gone, replaced by new ones with little oversight.

As a moderate Republican, I like to think I’m able to look at the foibles of both parties dispassionately, getting a chuckle now and then from more devoted members’ antics. Over the years, I’ve watched the parties evolve, mostly evenhandedly.

My current favorite fault with the Democrats is members’ penchant for the transient pleasure of embracing whatever faddish quackery-of-the-moment makes them feel most progressive. But while I am amused by my blue friends’ fleeting attention spans and flexible outrage, I must admit such an attitude does occasionally accomplish things.

On the Republican side, in past years, my complaint would’ve sounded equally annoying, yet benign. But the current GOP fault is far more malevolent.

Cursing any institution or organization with the faintest stink of “liberalism,” the right has come to feel comfortable accepting completely unvetted “facts.”

If I hear Bill Gates owns Snopes one more time (he doesn’t and never has), I will implode. Or that Gates wants to put radio frequency identification chips into COVID vaccines so people can be tracked by satellite (he doesn’t, the Gates Foundation has little to do with vaccination other than funding some in Third World countries, and RFID chips cannot be reliably read by scanners located more than a few feet away). What’s the big deal with Bill Gates anyway?

When I asked a recent complainant who’d just finished telling me about the RFID chips to send me her source(s), she enthusiastically promised she would. A moment later, a stack of sermons landed in my in-box, not one containing a mention of Bill Gates or vaccines.

When pushed again to reveal her sources, she couldn’t. Going a step further, I asked her gently if she’d fact-checked any of it. No, she hadn’t.

When I started listing ways to easily vet the veracity of pretty much any claim, she stopped me. “Those are liberal sources,” she said. Liberal, therefore untrustworthy, she meant.

These were venerable organizations like Reuters and the BBC. So, though fearing her response, I asked if she knew of a single fact-checker she considered reliable. “No, I don’t know any,” she responded.

This is hugely problematic. When you make sweeping claims that condemn people and organizations, you should probably check first to see if they’re true.

If you reject all broadly accepted sources of truth verification, you risk sounding like a cartoon when you speak. And that’s putting it kindly.

This is not to say Republicans don’t have some legitimate beefs with the system. But without the temperance of fact-checking, those issues have been magnified almost unchecked to become parodies of what they once were. Bill Gates is not sitting in an underground lair scheming to take over the world.

The conversations I mention are emblematic of a significant segment of the GOP.

When I recently made the remark that this attitude could effectively negate all established science, I was scolded for overstatement. But I’m not wrong.

If truth no longer needs vetting, anything goes. And then anything already established might eventually be up for questioning.

So, how do we fix this?

I’ve been preaching a message of unity for years — urging people to concentrate on the hundreds of factors we have in common, as opposed to the handful of things on which we disagree. While this point absolutely applies, it’s going to first take a significant effort by Democrats and moderates to extend a sincere olive branch.

Since the election, I’ve heard numerous gloating Democrats vow they’ll never again have anything to do with the hateful people who followed Trump.

I get that instinct, I really do. But those who feel it need to put it aside in the interest of the country, as further mockery and hatred will only further separate us.

Once Republicans become convinced Democrats are not out to bait or trap them, Republicans must step forward, too. They must take a hard look at some of the beliefs popular in their party, subjecting those beliefs to real verification and scrutiny.

Moderate members must quell outrageous rumors and help shepherd those less disciplined. When you leave your echo chamber, it’s a lot easier to see error where it earlier lurked, obscured.

Perhaps I’m naive and we’re beyond hope.

Frankly, I believe people at the outer edges — the far right and far left — have little interest in conversation. But I’m still convinced those who occupy the more reasonable middle can be reconciled.

It’s worth a shot. But it’s going to take all of us being patient and maybe even kind to former foes.



Patience to those who believe that Tom Hanks eats babies? Patience to those who have accepted conspiracies as fact? A coming together needs to begin with verified facts. Math. Science. Facts. Feelings should never drive a national narrative. Opinions are not facts.
GOP hero Reagan removed The Fairness Doctrine which led to "news" outlets feeding us speculations/opinions as news. Truth got lost in the shuffle as "liberal bias". A common thread will not be reached UNLESS a fact can be agreed upon. Facts are not alternative. They are what they are. Why are facts continually up for debate?


I can offer neither patience nor kindness to those who have chosen to dismiss the basic premise of democracy in a constitutional republic.

If one of the major political parties is unwilling to agree on even that, there can be no coming together. And this is not something new or fleeting. The feeling among conservatives and Republicans that the outcomes of free and fair elections are unacceptable to them has been growing steadily for decades in lock step with the growing urban/rural divide.

The most basic principle of representational democracy, that the numbers of ballots legally cast by registered voters shall determine the outcomes of elections has been criticized and inveighed against by conservatives and Republicans for many years. The fact that large numbers of voters are concentrated in urban areas/states is not "unfair" to rural areas/states. This is why we have a federal system at nearly all levels. Square mileage of land is not somehow equivalent to citizenship in terms of rights, privileges, nor influence. Fewer people have less influence. That's democracy.

If I acquiesce to this conservative instinct that casts doubt on any election decided by a majority of whom they disapprove what do I stand to gain?

There is no honest good faith argument that can be made that would ultimately lead to the disenfranchisement of any of my fellow citizens, regardless of their political ideology. Denying lawful citizens their voice and their ballot in a democratic system on account of where they live, what they look like, how they dress, or how they live is to deny them citizenship itself. I can't offer patience or kindness to an instinct that seeks to deprive me of my basic rights as a citizen.


Thank you, Matt Meador for a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece on the divisions of the body politic.

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