How the Democratic Party Must Transcend Trump Hate, and Stare Down the Real Enemy
Finding Our True Selves
We’re a liberal family.
My mother spent years working in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. She registered African American voters in the deep South, which almost got her killed.
After graduating from Georgetown Law School, my father led the legal aid program in our city. He then spent 30 years educating law students on the finer points of the U.S. Constitution.
Growing up, Ronald Reagan routinely bore the brunt of many jokes around our dinner table. There was much eye rolling each time Republicans decried the “elite,” — we understood this label as a euphemism for “educated,” and by implication, a term used by those who were not.
We tolerated the Clinton circus for the advancement of Democratic policies. We hailed the election of Obama as a monumental step toward fulfilling the promise of America.
We were all dyed-in-the-wool Democrats.
And so, on the evening of November 8th, 2016, when I tucked my kids into bed, I assured them, “there’s no way Trump will win.” The next morning around the breakfast table, I, like so many others in my circle, sat devastated and confused…at a total loss.
I had no way of knowing this was the beginning of a painful awakening, of sorts, to a greater threat yet to come.
Morally Bankrupt China Coverage
First, a little background. I’m a China expert.
For more than 20 years, I’ve spent countless hours with hundreds of Chinese expats studying the history, personal testimonies, and underlying forces of modern China. I’m connected to a network of people that spans all of China, across every province and every governmental department in China. I understand, in detail, the nature of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the crimes it has committed, and the methods it uses to perpetrate, and cover up, those crimes.
It is no secret to me and many other China watchers (who are not compromised by Beijing) that Western media has, for years, been distorting, and strategically omitting when it comes to news about China. And it’s no secret why.
In 2001, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger flew to Beijing to meet with then-CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin (who came to power largely for his support of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989). Tom Friedman tagged along. Days later, nytimes.com was suddenly unblocked in China, and for years after this meeting, the New York Times was suspiciously quiet on the most significant human rights atrocity happening in China at the time — the brutal campaign to eliminate the Buddhist spiritual practice, Falun Gong.
In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics of 2008, journalists told China human rights advocates that they could not cover their stories because they didn’t want to lose access to the Olympics.
In more recent years, major Western media including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and UK’s The Guardian have taken millions of dollars to include editorial-looking inserts — called “China Daily” — in their papers, created by the CCP.
Most recently, U.S. political voices have been decried, sometimes removed, from the New York Times opinion pages, while CCP officials and proxies — cronies of a foreign communist regime — are welcomed on those same pages. For example, former New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet had to resign for running an op-ed by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton. Meanwhile, in the past 18 months alone, the New York Times has offered its opinion page platform to the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., a leading pro-Beijing official in Hong Kong, and the head of China’s state-linked Huawei tech giant — all of which pushed ideas to advance the CCP’s power and influence. To be clear, this means the ideas of a sitting U.S. Senator are more dangerous and less fit for publication than the ideas of a foreign communist power that enslaves over a million Uyghurs, systematically tortures and kills people who practice Falun Gong, and has never been held to account for the tens of millions of Chinese killed by the regime over the last 70 years, including the thousands of students gunned down in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
In essence, some of our most highly regarded media have largely abandoned the plight of the people of China and exhibited no qualms about horribly misleading their own readers on the subject. And it is this morally bankrupt coverage that tipped me off to something much bigger unfolding right here in the U.S.
My Rosetta Stone
In 2018, something very weird happened. I witnessed the “buffoonish” Trump administration launch a series of actions on China that were, dare I say, morally and legally the right thing to do. To be specific, for the first time in 30 years, a U.S. administration took decisive action to stop the CCP from draining our economy of jobs, flooding our country with addictive drugs, robbing us of intellectual property, corrupting our business sectors, and inculcating our students with sympathy for communist tyranny.
How is it that the administration of an “erratic,” “egomaniac,” and “unhinged” President could be the first in a generation to make all the right calls when it came to China? Could some part of this administration truly have our country’s best interests at heart, and furthermore, possess a strong moral compass? It was hard to wrap my mind around. How in the world could I reconcile Trump’s actions on China with everything else he has done and said that I opposed?
And then, I put two things together.
One, while I find President Trump’s communication style painful to take in, most of the things I think I “know” about the Trump administration have come from what I read in the news. What’s the real situation with our NATO allies, and what exactly has been the impact of Trump’s approach? I only know what I read in the news. What is the true impact of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement? What is the real cause of our surging economy (before the pandemic)? Is Trump truly racist? Again, I only know what I read in the news, and let’s be honest: with very few exceptions, we Democrats hold the levers of power in virtually every newsroom across the country.
Two, if the most respectable media institutions in America routinely distort and omit to benefit a foreign communist regime, would they be capable of similar tactics toward the Trump administration, who they openly oppose? Unfortunately, the answer is most certainly yes.
And so, the media’s coverage of the CCP (or lack thereof) became a blueprint of sorts — my Rosetta Stone — for deciphering what the news really meant, or more specifically, how far it could deviate from, or purposely distort, the truth. It was this blueprint that best explained how the “worst president in U.S. history” was making bold, intelligent decisions to save this country from CCP infiltration, robbery, and deceit.
How far did this rabbit hole go? I had to dig further.
The Paris Agreement: Upon urging from a friend, I actually sat down to read the agreement first-hand as well as review critiques from environmental experts. It was eye-opening. The agreement crippled key American industries and forced us to give up energy productions that free us from dependence on other countries. Perhaps a worthy sacrifice. But, at the same time, it gave China, India, and many other countries a green light to do whatever they wanted. Furthermore, none of the agreement could be proven to make a significant improvement for planet Earth. And on top of it all, there was nothing in the “agreement” that was enforceable. But it sure did sound good, and gave President Obama many political kudos back home, and around the world.
I was not alone in these findings.
The Iranian nuclear deal: Again, I read through the agreement and related fact-checking material myself. And ugh… we unfroze as much as $150 billion dollars for Iran to access, and literally sent a plane load of more than $1 billion in cash to the Iranian regime, which, let’s remember, is a sponsor of terrorism. In return, the “deal” (which was not approved by Congress) does not require the regime to entirely dismantle existing nuclear weapons facilities, does not allow U.S. inspectors on site to verify the Iranians were keeping “the deal” (only IAEA inspectors are allowed), and critically, inspections of any given site can be delayed for up to 24 days, allowing almost a month for Iran to hide potential evidence ahead of any given inspection. So, what exactly did we buy? Again, accolades throughout the U.S. (and around the world) for the Obama administration for securing this deal were in abundance. It was heralded as a great step toward peace, but no doubt from pundits who didn’t read the fine print, or chose not to.
I was not alone in these findings either.
And Trump being anti-immigrant?
A close friend who spent many months actually living and reporting on the southern border, told me the real story: drugs and crime, including human trafficking of women and children, is a rampant problem pouring over the border. It is absolutely horrific for the victims, and for the communities having to deal with the fall-out. What she made clear to me is that, the disaster on our southern border had been largely ignored for years.
Ok, but the bottom line is that Trump is still a racist, right? After all, he called neo-Nazis “very fine people” in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence. Right? Again, I went to first-hand source material: I looked at the press conference in question and saw how the media had twisted it. Again, shocking: when you watch the full interview, it is absolutely clear President Trump is talking about regular, peaceful citizens who were at the event and were either for or against pulling down a statue of Robert E. Lee. He was not referring to two other groups that were also at the event — Antifa and neo-Nazis. If you actually watch the interview, there is absolutely no way to get this confused. In fact, in a later part of the press conference, President Trump even clarified his ‘fine people’ comment by saying: “I’m not talking about the Neo-nazis and the white nationalists.” And yet, the dominant headline that emerged from newsrooms across the country made it clear that Trump called white nationalists “very fine people,” and so “proving” that Trump is a “racist.”
And once again, I was not alone in these findings.
And the list went on and on and on. Each and every significant policy decision or statement “made” by Trump and covered widely in the news exhibited the same phenomenon: significant distortion or in many cases outright lying to portray Trump as incompetent, racist, and narcissistic.
For years, I had rolled my eyes and made fun of Trump every time he blurted out “fake news,” assuming it was just a label he threw out at any news organization that challenged him with good questions. But now, well, I certainly wouldn’t know what else to call the distortions and omissions that seemed to be standard operating procedure in the media’s coverage of Trump.
What the heck was going on?
Perhaps part of the problem is that the words and manner of Trump, the man, tarnish, or at least overshadow, the work of his administration such that media felt the need to distort everything he did.
So, what about the man? I decided to confer with a close friend of mine from Palm Beach. Interestingly enough, she knows the Trump family and has attended many events with them at Mar-a-Lago in the past.
Looking for the Real Trump
“What’s he really like?” was my obvious question, my head still spinning from the digging and discovery I had done over the past few months.
“As we all know, he can be brash and outspoken,” she offered, “but in person he’s nothing like they portray in the news. In private, he’s actually… respectful, quiet, and believe it or not, a very good listener.”
She paused and looked at me carefully, and then, perhaps deeming I was ready to hear more, continued: “He really does love this country.” She gave me a half-smile and shrug, acknowledging how such a sentiment may seem cliché, but resolved to the fact that it is a simple truth regardless of how it sounds.
“That’s what I hate most about how he’s portrayed in the media… they all say that everything he does is to just stroke his own ego…because he’s a ‘narcissist,’” she said, looking directly at me now, slightly frustrated. “But they’re wrong. He really cares about people.”
She looked at me as a doctor does a patient, trying to gauge whether I was able to swallow what she delivered given all the anti-Trump thoughts she rightly assumed had permeated my head for so long.
“Just look at the way the media covers him,” she continued. “Of course, when he says something wrong or his administration does something questionable, they jump all over him. But even when he does something very good — the peace accords in the Middle East, renegotiating NAFTA into USMCA, record economic gains of minorities — they spin it as just a ploy to make himself look good. So…he can’t win. No matter what he does, they manipulate it to ‘prove’ he’s a narcissist. The bottom line is they just want him out of office so they always frame him as the absolutely worst person to ever walk the face of the earth.”
It was an interesting, and perhaps valuable perspective, but I still had one problem: the stuff that comes out of Trump’s mouth.
“OK,” I started, “but news distortions aside, if we just talk about the stuff I’ve heard come out of his mouth, I have some real concerns about Trump. I mean, he…”
She held up a hand to stop me. I’m sure she’s heard it all before.
“Look, no one is defending each and everything he says,” she said. “I think we need to keep in mind that is he’s under attack from dedicated and overwhelming forces. He does not shirk from the media’s questions and he almost never speaks from a prepared script. So, yeah… you’re going to get a lot of stream of consciousness, misspoken words, bravado, etc. But look, for decades we complained about our Presidents being too scripted and always talking off a teleprompter, and now we get one that doesn’t do that… and we jump all over him for the way he talks. He’s not a typical career politician. He’s… a real estate developer from Queens.”
I was not convinced, and it showed.
“To be honest,” she continued, “I think it is one of the many reasons he connects with people, I mean look at his rallies. Do you really think each and every one of those people is stupid or ignorant? If so, isn’t that pretty arrogant of you?”
Ouch. I was not inclined to think of myself as someone who easily discards tens of millions of people that I’ve never met as idiots (Trump voters), so that was an uncomfortable question. Still, I’m sure my hesitation remained obvious.
“Look,” she concluded, “we don’t have to like him. We don’t have to want to get a beer with him. He’s not our uncle and he’s not our friend. He’s the President with a tremendous responsibility, and he needs to get the job done, no matter who likes him or not.”
We both left that hanging in the air for a while.
Perhaps she wasn’t wrong, but I still didn’t feel right.
A One-Party Media State
Often when I feel I need some grounded perspective on our country, I turn to a circle of friends who are first-generation immigrants: folks who grew up in parts of the world with far less in their homes, and far more to fear outside of them.
Honza, born in Czechoslovakia, had grown up under communism, and remembers the life vividly. When I told him about my journey over the past few months of uncovering distortions and obfuscations in our “free” press, I immediately got “the look”; the one that says “you silly Americans.”
“What?” I asked.
Then Honza said something I wasn’t expecting: “Honestly, this feels kind of like Czechoslovakia before communism fell,” he said matter-of-factly. “We used to have centralized news, scattered over many news outlets, all saying the same thing. We were told by our parents not to trust it, but there was no alternative. Here in the U.S. there’s one political ideology, one worldview that dominates almost everything — from news outlets to evening talk shows; from Hollywood to Silicon Valley; from the sports industry to university campuses. Liberal Democrats dominate these areas. Anyone who tries to step outside this arena, and entertain opposing viewpoints is attacked, doxed, marginalized… called a Nazi or a racist.”
He stopped with a concerning look as if to say: this is not what I thought America would be.
We stood silent for a while. I could tell he was searching for an example, a way to lay it out more clearly.
“It is extremely dangerous to have a single ideology wield this much influence over people’s minds because inevitably, those who hold the levers of that power descend into tyranny,” Honza said. “American vocabulary now fancies words like ‘progressive’ and ‘woke,’ and I find it a bit sad and laughable at the same time. These words were used by the communists back then in our country… ‘progress, and not a step back,’ and being ‘politically woke’ were phrases we made fun of in our popular culture, once communism was gone.”
Honza paused and took a big sigh. “Seeing them thrown around in the U.S. now is a really weird experience…and troubling.”
“But for many,” I offered, hoping to round out the perspective a bit, “these are not just nice slogans. Many believe there’s value to some of these ideas and yes, even the slogans.”
“Do they?” Honza shot back quickly. “I mean, do they really?”
“Look at the NBA,” Honza offered as an example. “For the past four years, players and coaches have been very vocal at press conferences, in their social media posts, and even with statements on their jerseys and shoes, all denouncing Trump, the police, and calling for social justice, right?”
“Yes, for sure…they are not afraid to speak their minds,” I concurred.
Honza smirked, and then continued: “Then… the Houston Rockets General Manager sends out one simple tweet in support of democracy in Hong Kong, and suddenly, everyone in the NBA goes silent. Or worse, they make mumbling statements saying they are ‘friends of China.’ We even saw Americans being kicked out of American arenas because they had pro-Hong Kong messages on their t-shirts. And remember, we’re talking about simply supporting democracy for a people who are literally being beaten in the streets, or hauled away, possibly to prisons in China where torture and abuse are rampant.”
Well, he wasn’t wrong, nor was he done.
“In the face of all this,” he continued, “the NBA went silent, and I’m not just talking about most. It was total. Across the entire NBA, not a single player, coach or executive stood up for Hong Kong people. Not one…total silence. Where’s the ‘social conscience’? Where’s the ‘political activism’? It’s all gone because it wasn’t real to begin with. It’s an ideological viewpoint weaponized to go after political opponents here in the U.S. and so for those who wield it, standing up for the Hong Kong people had no value. Standing up for human rights is not its purpose.”
Honza paused, giving me time to ponder this perspective. I could tell there was more… a final tie-in he wanted to make.
“If America were a school playground, perhaps Trump is one of the bullies pushing people down and calling people names, but… there are multiple gunmen at the perimeter closing in, picking kids off one after the other. That’s the real threat: the ideological rage that has possessed this country. Just wait. It won’t be long until violence spills over into the streets and they’ll start making political lists of those who need to be eliminated. That’s what’s coming. And you watch… the media will justify it every step of the way, convincing millions of decent Americans that it all makes sense.”
“You guys are in real trouble,” Honza offered, seemingly forgetting he’s a permanent resident now who lives just down the street from me.
“Thanks Honza,” I muttered sarcastically as I walked out to my car. “Good talk.”
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Then the virus hit. George Floyd was killed. The protests began. The riots ensued. And I saw just how far the influences Honza was describing, that have eroded the pillars of our Fourth Estate, reached into our society, and indeed, our party.
One night while watching downtown Portland burn and Democratic pundits applaud the “rally,” one of my close Chinese friends, Chen, turned to me and said, “this looks like the beginnings of the Cultural Revolution in China.”
For those unfamiliar, the Cultural Revolution was a nearly ten-year campaign in China that mobilized violence throughout the country, often pitting communities or even family members against each other in fits of ideological rage. It’s widely regarded by China experts as one of the darkest moments in modern Chinese history.
Sadly, China’s Cultural Revolution fit a pattern of left-wing radicalism that reared its head several times in the post-Enlightenment era, and always with deadly consequences. The Jacobins’ Reign of Terror in revolutionary France. The Bolshevik uprising in Russia. And, of course, the Maoists’ revolution in China. In all cases, the masses, most of whom were regular people who genuinely sought “equality” and “justice,” were infused with ideological rage, and mobilized to usher in tyrannical regimes whose body-counts make them among the deadliest regimes in world history.
Chen was not entirely wrong.
Across social media in America, we see teary-eyed posts from liberals denouncing their “racist” or “misogynistic” parents. Others posted “break-ups” with friends who they could no longer associate with because of their failure to fully embrace the “trained Marxist” leaders of Black Lives Matter and their crusade to defund the police.
Even liberals like Bill Maher have been calling out liberal extremism, denouncing how they had weaponized political correctness.
Across the country, there echoed a call to arms for Americans to tear down statues, burn buildings, and “overturn the system.” We Democrats were leading the way.
My thoughts turned back to my discussion with Honza. The last thing we need in America is a sharp turn towards tyranny, and I shudder at the thought that many of us well-meaning Democrats may be the unwitting facilitators of such change.
The Difficult, but Necessary Road Ahead
We Democrats have always prided ourselves on being the party that is open to new ideas, protects the vulnerable, and ensures equal opportunity is available to all. And we do so while welcoming open and free debate because we’ve always believed that the merit of our ideas will win the day. The truth shall prevail. Yet, there is a new, powerful faction within our ranks that labels many ideas they don’t like as “hate speech” and many people they don’t like a “Nazi.” Free debate has been cancelled as “toxic” or “harmful.”
The “truth,” it seems to this faction, needs a censor… and an enforcer.
We Democrats have also always prided ourselves on being the party that believes in the power of the people through peaceful protest. Yet, this new faction would rather don black masks and throw Molotov cocktails, or “punch a ‘Nazi.’” It is this hoodlum behavior and the ideology that drives it that we must call out specifically and clearly as antithetical to what we stand for.
Shamefully, our current crop of Democratic leaders have not called this out, and in many cases, have even fanned the flames in what appears to me a by-any-means-necessary campaign to remove Trump from office.
And now, in the days following the election, the entire media establishment has declared Biden the winner and pushed stories out every night to re-enforce this ‘reality’ — despite the fact that none of the legal thresholds necessary to officially declare a winner have been crossed.
What goes unreported, and even censored on social media, is a growing and highly disturbing collection of evidence pointing to rampant voter fraud, perhaps coordinated, across most battle-ground states.
From highly suspect statistical anomalies, to gaping security holes in voting computer systems previously called out by Democratic leaders, to hundreds of affidavits attesting to fraud, the volume and type of evidence warrants investigation (If that all sounds like a ‘conspiracy theory’ to you, that’s a tell-tale sign you may be living in the media bubble Honza warned me about. The outlets that are reporting on this present clear, specific evidence for anyone who dares to take a look, or better yet, you can examine the source material directly: the hearings, the lawsuits, and the affidavits made public. Don’t let the media interpret them for you.).
Surely, the disdain for Trump provides ample motive. Indeed, Dennis Prager has suggested that if those opposing Trump really believe their own rhetoric — that Trump truly is dangerous, unstable, and an existential threat to our democracy — they would have a moral obligation to cheat to remove him from office. But let’s be clear: if significant fraud has taken place and we allow this to happen, we’re advocating for precisely what tyrants do, or at the very least, tyrants in the making. We cannot, we must not seize power in this manner.
If there’s any possibility that fraud gave Biden an illegal victory, we need to find the truth. We should not be afraid to do so. Indeed, we should lead the way, regardless of what outcome it may yield. That is who we Democrats are; champions of justice and rule of law above all else, including our own political interests.
It is very possible that a thorough investigation of voting fraud would show that Biden won the election, but even if we do lose the White House, this “defeat,” although painful, could, in the long-term, prove to be the very medicine we need. It would allow us to use the next four years for some desperately needed soul-searching, recalibrating, and hopefully, much open and honest debate over how we got to this point, and what we can do to fix it.
Regardless of who is sworn in on January 20th 2021, we have a lot of work to do to restore decency and kindness as cornerstones to the Democratic party. We must hold our media accountable for fair and accurate reporting. We must return to our core values so that we may once again nominate candidates worthy of our party’s mantle, and who can advance policies true to our values.
And most importantly of all: we MUST reach outside of our information sources — the vast network of a single political ideology that dominates our newsrooms.
Every once in a while, let’s turn off CNN, NBC or ABC, and tune into Tucker Carlson. I know he’s brash and emotional, but he is also highly articulate, and he asks tough, precise questions. Even if we don’t agree with his points, we need to be able to answer his questions instead of just hiding from them or discarding them all as ‘right-wing hate.’
Every once in a while, let’s put the Washington Post down and read Dennis Prager. He’s an old-school Brooklyn Jew that has traveled the world many times over. He offers a grounded perspective from someone who has seen and done much.
And every once in a while, let’s put the New York Times down and instead, pick up the Epoch Times. It was founded by Chinese people who practice Falun Gong to break the stranglehold on media control and censorship on China issues, and they are bringing that same dogged approach toward speaking truth to power here to the U.S. Adding this voice into a diverse set of information sources would certainly help complete the picture.
Is the Fate of Our Nation In Our Hands?
Were we to push forward now, claiming the presidency for Biden with lingering, credible allegations of significant fraud hanging in the air, and raise up the current crop of Democratic leaders that brought us to the dangerous point I’ve been describing, we could very well become the “useful idiots,” whose passions and desperation are manipulated to eradicate our freedoms, and install a new American Reign of Terror.
Just look at the level of disdain and rage that has already possessed our rank and file, and that has been encouraged, even rewarded, by our leadership. It has fueled riots across the country, given rise to an oppressive, sometimes violent, “cancel culture” that permeates our college campuses, and sparked ideologically-governed censorship imposed on all of us by Big Tech — a power that remains virtually unchecked.
How long until this woke outrage that is currently running amok in America escalates into even more widespread violence… perhaps prison sentences, for supposed “racists,” “misogynists,” “homophobes,” and yes, the most deplorable of all, “Trump supporters” simply because they don’t share our views, or represent an oppositional political force?
Already, prominent Democratic leaders are proposing a “Trump accountability” list to target their political rivals should Biden take power. Just what exactly is going to happen to these people?
We know where this path leads. I, for one, want no part in that.
America can survive another four years of Trump.
What America may not survive is the sacrificing of just and fair elections in an attempt to install someone in office who we hope will bring about justice and fairness. What a terrible and tragic irony that would be. Conversely, if we take the necessary steps to ensure we can come out of this election with a clean conscience, then all Americans — including the 74 million people who voted for Trump — will have hope, and surely be able to work together.
And it’s not just about us.
The world looks to the U.S. as a beacon of democracy. Billions the world over are, too, affected by our electoral process.
As one of America’s greatest orators, Dr. King, once implored of us: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” We must continue to be the party that embraces justice and righteousness, regardless of the outcome of this election.
If we don’t stand by our principles, we stand to lose everything.
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Jon Kunsman attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and is now a small business owner and China researcher who lives in New York with his wife and two children.
By Jon Kunsman