- - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“Unity” is all the buzz among both Republicans and Democrats. Can unity, where everyone is finally happy with a settled argument, ever be achieved? If so, how? Mr. Dooley, humorist Peter Finley Dunne’s fictional party regular, always took brass knuckles to a Democratic unity meeting.

This year, as always, it’s a question of who sets the terms for achieving “unity.” When Donald Trump says he now owns the Grand Old Party, and he gets to set the terms of unity, it’s hard to argue his point.

We’ve come a long way since the Republican convention of 2012, with Paul Ryan, the new running mate of Mitt Romney, asking voters everywhere, “Whatever your political party, let’s come together for the sake of our country.”

A few days later, President Obama, speaking from the Democratic convention, made his case for unity with an assertion that America is “about what can be done by us together.”

What a difference the passage of four years can make. “We shouldn’t just pretend our party is unified when we know it is not,” Mr. Ryan tells The Wall Street Journal on the eve of his big meeting with Donald Trump. “We can’t just fake it.”

The Democrats can’t fake it, either, as Bernie Sanders wraps up another rejection of Hillary Clinton in West Virginia. Not to worry: The conventional wisdom says everybody will come around, both Democrats and Republicans will be magically unified by November. Well, maybe. But that’s not the way to bet this year.

The division runs deep in America. Politically correct attitudes invite moral preening and stack the deck against the search for what we used to call “truth,” an old-fashioned philosophical concept. On the campus, where students are supposed to argue and spar with their teachers in the polite pursuit of knowledge, dogma reigns and anyone who questions the dogma is ignored or vilified.

Donald Trump’s popularity comes from his “unfiltered speak,” though often a spontaneous stew of ignorance and bravado. But it challenges political correctness and stands out as something that, if not brave, is at least unscripted. He says what he likes with the freedom that everyone once felt.

Like it or not (and there’s something to like and a lot not to like), what he says is not for sheep. It’s not, for example, like the stuff that journalists, like robots, reported about President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Benjamin Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s powerful foreign-policy adviser and speechwriter, who is said to have had a “mind meld” with the president, tells The New York Times how he used the authority of the president to manipulate reporters and their readers into accepting only the president’s version of what was going on with the Iranians. He boasts that he could feed the reporters predigested duplicity because they didn’t have the intellectual grit, experience or skepticism to analyze the fictions he dished out.

He quickly learned that the young reporters he tutored with foreign policy information were easy prey. “They literally know nothing,” he says, and this enabled him, as spokesman for the administration, to be the master ventriloquist, manipulating dummies.

Mr. Rhodes, the practiced fiction writer, becomes 21st century support of Plato’s argument for keeping the poets out of his republic. By his own telling, Mr. Rhodes doctored his fiction with a compelling narrative of lies, fibs and stretchers, which were swallowed whole. He received no penetrating questions to draw out the truth because there was no one to pose such questions.

Every administration, Democrat or Republican, spins reporters. It’s what administrations do. But the public on the receiving end is particularly vulnerable today because newspapers and television networks have recalled many correspondents and have no fresh facts to dispense. The digital “information” is where the public, particularly the millennials, get most of their “news,” and it’s raw and unedited. When it does get a once-over edit, it tilts left.

A former news “curator” at Facebook tells Gizmodo, a technology blog, that Facebook routinely suppresses trending news stories without the leftward tilt. The “curators,” who are responsible for selecting which news is fit to print, routinely blacklist the news that doesn’t fit Facebook’s prevailing left-leaning ideology. Facebook says that’s not true, but what is demonstrably true is that Facebook, with 167 million news consumers, can influence voters satisfied with once-over-lightly news.

Paul Boller, the chronicler of political campaigns, tells how America’s first presidential election was thoroughly undemocratic. “There were no primaries, nominating conventions, rival candidates, campaign speeches, or debates on public issues,” he writes in his book, “Presidential Campaigns.” George Washington won as a perfect expression of the popular will. The Founding Fathers were not sure the people would choose wisely after Washington, and more than two centuries later, we’re still not sure. We can only hope for the best.

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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