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 recently as part of a nationwide March for Truth, sponsored by the activist group Indivisible, a self-proclaimed movement to resist Donald Trump’s “agenda.” I spoke at one of the rallies, held in Madison, Wisconsin.
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 supposed to work for us.
Besides being the first president in decades not to release his tax returns, Trump has shut 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 officials were granted waivers from the president’s drain-the-swamp ban on having ex-lobbyists work on issues that involve former clients. But the office pushed back, and the records were released. They show that more than a dozen White House staffers are allowed to work on matters they dealt with as lobbyists.
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 would concoct outrageous lies that millions of people voted illegally or that President Barack Obama tapped his phones?
Who would have thought the president would call the media “the enemy of the people?” Or that a candidate for Congress would body slam a reporter for asking a reasonable question?
The media 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 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 opportunities to protect our democratic institutions — by standing up for the truth, transparency and the press.
Bill Lueders, managing editor of The Progressive magazine, wrote this for Tribune News Service.