03:23 - Source: CNNMoney
Why press freedom is your freedom

Editor’s Note: Kurt Bardella is a political commentator who recently left the Republican Party to join the Democratic Party. He is a former spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), Brian Bilbray (R-California), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Breitbart News. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

After almost a full year of Donald Trump’s presidency, and with a new year freshly started, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all exhausted.

I remember thinking after the first few months of 2017 went by, “He can’t possibly keep this pace up – governing by tweet – it’s unsustainable.”

Clearly, I was wrong.

Kurt Bardella
Kurt Bardella

Just three days before 2018 began, in an impromptu interview with The New York Times, President Donald Trump declared that one of the reasons “I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win.”

After reading this, I realized that Trump won’t relent in 2018 and, to the contrary, will ratchet things up.

Trump’s words to the Times indicate that the press will abet him out of self-interest. But in a broader sense, he’s banking on the idea that the rest of us – media, commentators and citizens alike – can’t or won’t keep pace with his blusterous attacks and that by the default of complacency, he’ll win.

That’s why the most meaningful New Year’s resolution we can make is to get serious about really participating in the political conversations happening in this country.

For freedom of the press in America, 2018 could be one of the most consequential years in our nation’s history. Grappling with history and our place in it can seem opaque and out of our reach, but we have to do it anyway, because the President of the United States spent the entirety of his first year in office leading an unrelenting assault on the First Amendment.

He is expecting the free press to “let him win” his next presidential election – which raises the question: What if they don’t?

The free press is the first line of defense of our republic. It is the media that can demand truth from power and hold those who wield that massive power accountable to the people. The press represents the American people’s check-and-balance on government.

But the media cannot operate in a vacuum – which is where our New Year’s resolution to participate comes in. Now more than ever, the media needs an engaged, informed and vocal public.

Silence is as dangerous as ignorance and complacency.

It is the silence of the Republican Party’s leadership that allowed the extremists now in charge to hijack it and pave the way for the GOP to openly embrace socially destructive themes of sexism, racism, discrimination, homophobia, xenophobia and even an alleged sexual predator.

The Republican Party’s collective cowardice signaled weakness in its leadership and created the opening for Trump, Steve Bannon and their ilk to exploit their silence to seize control of the party and imprint their will and radical agenda on it.

Their brand of hate feeds off the fear and ignorance that thrives when the people are silent or disengaged from participating in politics.

2017 was a preamble, the beginning, the first act of Donald Trump’s war against truth and fact.

And 2018 is likely to be a transformational year in our political and civil discourse.

That is why it is, urgently, our job to remain diligent about the facts and to speak up to defend them.

It is our job to participate in the political process, not just on election day, but every day – because you can rest assured, the enemies of the First Amendment aren’t taking any days off in their crusade to remake the fabric of our country.

It is our job to broaden the conversation and expand the circle of those who are a part of it.

Ask yourself: What can I do to learn more, share more, speak out more and include more in 2018?

Twenty or 30 years from now, your children or grandchildren are probably going to ask you what it was like to live in 2018. They’ll look back on this time with the same moral clarity that we now can look back on the Vietnam era or World War II. Younger generations of Americans may well ask you what you did to fight back against the people who are trying to take our country backward.

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What do you want that answer to be?

Your voice can matter. When you watch the news – and discuss it with those around you – it matters. When you “like” or “share” something on social media – it matters. Your voice amplifies that of the reporters, commentators and politicians. Without you, they are nothing.