A functioning democracy requires respect for two values: Truth and transparency. Happily, both are values ordinary people can insist on and help deliver.
This was part of the message spread in more than a 100 cities on June 3 as part of a nationwide March for Truth, sponsored by the activist group Indivisible, a self-proclaimed “movement to resist Trump’s agenda.” I spoke at one of these rallies, held outside the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison on a gorgeous early summer evening.
Yes, things have gotten so crazy that people are actually protesting in favor of truth. Just as shocking is the drubbing being dispensed to transparency in government — which is, after all, supposed to work for us.
Besides being the first president in decades not to release his tax returns, Donald Trump has shut down access to White House visitor logs and purged federal websites of accurate information about climate change. His administration has stopped posting information about companies that violate worker health and safety laws and animal care facilities that mistreat animals.
But transparency is an ideal worth defending, and these are battles that can be won.
Initially, the Trump team refused a request from the Office of Government Ethics to reveal which administration officials have been granted waivers from the president’s drain-the-swamp ban on having ex-lobbyists work on issues that involve their former clients. But the office pushed back, and the highly illuminating records were released. They show that more than a dozen White House staffers are allowed to work on matters they dealt with as lobbyists, or with their former colleagues.
On truth, the fight is just as important but even more frustrating. Who would have guessed that, in 2017, objective reality would be open to dispute? That the president of the United States would concoct outrageous lies that millions of people voted illegally or that President Obama tapped his phones?
Who would have thought the president would call the press “the enemy of the people?” Or that a candidate for Congress would body slam a reporter for asking a perfectly reasonable question, drawing a misdemeanor assault charge, and be applauded for it?
The press is under unprecedented attack because it has never been more important. It has exposed the Russian connections of many of those associated with Trump and the various ways they sought to conceal that information. It has pulled back the veil on the many fabrications issued from the Trump White House.
All Americans, regardless of political persuasion, have a vested interest in defending the truth. The good news is that those of us engaged in this endeavor literally have truth on our side. There are such things as verifiable facts and demonstrable lies. There is a difference between them. And we all have a right to insist that this matters.
Every day we have fresh opportunities to protect our democratic institutions — by standing up for the truth, transparency and the press.
Bill Lueders is managing editor of The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the author at: Progressive Media Project, 30 W. Mifflin St., suite 703, Madison, Wis. 53703; email: [email protected]; Web site: www.progressive.org.