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Trump a Master of Bully Pulpit

Strange, isn’t it, how a strategy used by an icon of progressivism suddenly has become idiotic and irresponsible in the eyes of many progressives?

“Progressive” is the new/old term for the people we used to call “liberals.” The change is intended to convey the subliminal message that liberal Democrats are, well, progress.

But the term “progressive” is well over a century old. It was coined to describe a political movement liberal in domestic policy, in many ways.

Probably the most successful of the old progressive politicians was Theodore Roosevelt. His anti-big business, expansion of the federal regulatory machine and pro-environment ideas would fit him right in with today’s Democrat Party leaders. His gunboat diplomacy would disqualify him.

Roosevelt was a Republican for much of his political career, breaking with the party late in life, after serving as president from 1901-09. His Bull Moose Party was a dismal failure.

One of his political techniques was use of the “bully pulpit.” That means using a position of power to get your message out to people.

More than a century ago, Roosevelt was a master manipulator of the press, exclusively newspapers and magazines, then. He had a stable of reporters upon whom he could rely to report on him favorably. Frequently, he would meet with them, explain his ideas, and use their publications to promote his plans. He also used such meetings to test the popularity of some ideas among voters.

Fast forward to 2015-16 and, presumably, the future.

On the campaign trail and now as president-elect, Donald Trump has become famous (infamous in some quarters) for painting the news media as the enemy of all that is good. He makes it clear he has no intention of cooperating with the press in letting the American people know what’s going on in the White House.

So, he’s the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt?

Hardly. Trump has just moved on and eliminated the middle man and woman. He understands he doesn’t need the news media to give him a bully pulpit.

Trump has Twitter. His tweets allow him to curry favor with existing supporters, whip up enthusiasm for him and his ideas, and tell the opposition where to go.

He can reach more people more quickly — and immediately — through social media than he ever could by relying on the press, even if he had a group of fawning journalists like Roosevelt’s (and, by the way, Franklin Roosevelt’s).

There’s even a bonus to the technique: Trump knows many of his tweets will be reported by the “mainstream media.”

The left hates it, even though the basic idea was used with great success by one of their idols.

Why do liberals ridicule Trump’s social media bully pulpit? Because it’s working quite well for him, of course.

The last time I saw Ken Hechler was a few weeks before the Aug. 28, 2010 special primary election to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by the death of the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

Hechler was in our office, explaining his candidacy. He had to have known he couldn’t win the Senate race. Hechler was an idealist, but also a practical politician. He lost the primary to Manchin, but it says something about how many West Virginians loved old Ken and his red Jeep that he received 17.27 percent of Democrats’ votes.

During our conversation, Hechler talked about issues, not himself. It has been said one of his reasons for running in 2010 was to raise awareness of mountaintop mining.

Several minutes after Hechler left the office, I happened to glance out our second-floor window. Across the street, sitting on a stoop with his head in his hands, was Hechler.

Clearly, he was physically exhausted. No wonder. He was 95 years old. He died last weekend, at 102.

Hechler and I disagreed on many things. But, looking out at the old man who really was giving his all for his ideals, I couldn’t help but wish we had more public servants like him.

I still do.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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