Commentary: Hard truths for hard times

By John Krull
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – It is time for us, as Americans, to speak and hear some hard truths.

Among those truths:

  • Donald Trump won the presidential election. Yes, I know that, by the time all the ballots are counted, Hillary Clinton likely will have nearly 2 million more popular votes than Trump did. But contending that she “won” is a bit like arguing my beloved Cleveland Indians didn’t lose the World Series because they scored the same number of runs as the Chicago Cubs did over seven games. In baseball, it’s not just how many runs you score over the series but when you score them that counts. In presidential politics, it’s not just how many votes you get but where you get them.

    John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

    John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

  • The Electoral College may be a product of the 1700s, but it has a purpose. It was a product of the bargaining that made our republic possible. Its purpose, Column by John Krulllike that of the disproportionate representation in Congress – huge California and tiny Vermont have the same number of U.S. senators – was to make sure the needs and interests of small, rural states weren’t ignored or overwhelmed. In this election, citizens in those states felt their concerns were being neglected and they used the power of the ballot to voice their displeasure. That’s how the system is supposed to work.
  • I doubt Donald Trump will be the vehicle to address the concerns of these neglected citizens, but we must give him credit. He heard their cries when too many others in politics and the media were deaf to them. Thanks to Trump, both politicians and journalists will scramble to pay attention to the troubles and stories of these sadly forgotten Americans. This, too, is the way the system is supposed to work.
  • Attempting to persuade members of the Electoral College to switch their votes is dishonorable. Again, I know Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a sizable margin, but how does encouraging delegates assigned a single and specific task to ignore the will of the voters in their home states honor democracy or, for that matter, the rule of law?
  • Not all Trump supporters are racists, misogynists, xenophobes or anti-Semites. Making the presumption that anyone who cast a ballot for the president-elect is a bigot is neither fair nor honest. There were many, many people who voted for Trump because they are concerned about the country’s direction. Even if we disagree with them, it does not advance any cause other than that of incivility to disparage their sincerity.
  • That said, some Trump supporters are bigots. Disavowing them would go a long way toward reassuring open-minded Americans. If it was fair to demand that Barack Obama distance himself from a minister who criticized America’s abhorrent history when it comes to racial justice and a 1960s radical he barely knew, then it is fair to require that Donald Trump demonstrate he doesn’t link arms with people who like white sheets and hoods, swastikas and burning crosses.
  • If the rights of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups to march are constitutionally protected – and they are – then so is the right to protest the election of Donald Trump or any president. Our First Amendment rights to speak our minds, assemble peacefully and petition government for redress of grievances spring from the same motivation that the Electoral College does – a national determination to make sure to the best of our ability that no American’s voice will go unheard. We often fail to achieve this goal, but it must remain one of our dearest aspirations. Just as it is important that we hear and heed the voices of distressed Americans in rural America, it is important that we also hear and heed the voices of frightened and angry Americans in the streets of our cities.

This last hard truth must stand outside any list. Freedom and self-government never have been and never will be easy. Our system of government requires us to labor through many painful moments.

Such as this one.

When the founders drafted our constitution, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what had been produced.

“A republic, madam, if you can keep it,” Franklin replied.

That was our task as Americans then.

It is our task still.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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