Media actions risk turning nomination process into garbage

Just before I entered 3rd grade, my mother bought various items for my bedroom, including a bed spread, bookshelves, and a bean bag chair.  She also purchased the item Keoughpictured here that surprisingly would shape the direction of my life – a waste paper basket.

The metallic bin contained portraits of all the presidents and a list detailing their party and when they served.  Looking at it for the first time I recognized only a few names.  Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and then-president Nixon were men I recognized. But who were these other 30 guys? How does anyone know when someone was President? What is a Whig?  Why are there two pictures of Grover Cleveland?

The basket sparked a curiosity in me.  Over the next couple of months I memorized the list on the back.  At the Thanksgiving table I shocked my family by reciting the list of presidents in order. (I had to do it twice since they needed to consult the basket to confirm I was correct.)  That year for Christmas I received many books on presidents which I eagerly consumed.

This interest led to learning more about history and current events. Which led to obtaining a Political Science degree from the UW.  Which I have fortuitously turned into a career working in and around politics.

I have been privileged to work with many impressive public officials including Slade Gorton, Rob McKenna, Dan Evans, Sue Gould, Dino Rossi, and Dan Newhouse – all of whom are people of great integrity who worked long hours at their often thankless jobs.

It is easy to joke about politicians but nearly all, from both sides of the aisle, are hard-working, devoted, honest public servants who desire to make people’s lives better.  I have always been proud to work in my field.  This has been true until very recently when I have become embarrassed and often apologetic about my profession.

Like others, I cringed at the thought of Donald Trump running for president.  I predicted he would turn the process into a self-serving circus.  I thought he would gain a few delegates but he would not be a serious contender for the nomination.  Sadly, I was very wrong.  Not only is he a serious contender but the “circus” I feared has actually been more of a freak show.  He has chosen division and ridicule to achieve his goals.  His statements are filled with inaccuracies, fabrications, and lies. Most of all he has degraded the process and disrespected the office he is seeking.

But the worst thing that Trump has done is he has obtained success through exploiting fears and ignorance.  From Mexicans and Chinese to Muslims, he has fanned the flames of suspicion and doom to achieve his personal goals.  This is McCarthyism 2.0 and if Trump is successful I fear future generations will be sickened that our current era is part of our collective history.

Trump has been tremendously aided by the national media who continuously recite his latest insult, tweet, and provocation.  Trump is their monster and they are reaping financial rewards as they turn the selection of our president into a reality game show. As CBS CEO Les Moonves recently stated, “Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.” Moonves proclaimed. “It may not be good for America, but its damn good for CBS.”

Daily score keeping of inaccurate polls is now considered political reporting while in-depth coverage of the issues is a diminishing occurrence. Debates are promoted like WWE cage matches and only the insult exchanges are replayed in the following days.  Most attempts by other candidates to talk substantively and meaningfully are hijacked by the interviewer as they repeatedly ask about Trump’s latest buffoonery.

I still have hope that another candidate will increase their support to outweigh those mesmerized by the media’s non-stop recounting of Trump’s antics. Yet, I am often asked if I will vote for Trump if he becomes the GOP nominee. No. I will not reward his performance with something I treasure – my vote.  I will support other Republicans down the ballot, but for President, I will leave blank or vote for a third party candidate.

To return to my waste-paper basket.  I am thankful my mom bought it for me.  She never could have anticipated that an insignificant item would be such a major catalyst in my life.  Today it is a treasured keepsake.  I can only hope that our nominee for president is worthy to have their portrait on the outside of this basket and not be the waste that should be stuffed inside.

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Jim Keough

Jim Keough

Jim Keough has been involved in Washington politics for 30 years working for Slade Gorton, Rob McKenna, Dino Rossi and others. He is a public affairs consultant and founding Board Member of both the Roanoke Conference and Northwest Republican Community Fund.