In case you haven’t noticed, the election is over. Let me re-phrase that. THE ELECTION IS OVER!
Sorry, I didn’t mean to raise my voice. As one who both delivers and watches the news, I am politicked out. I guess I should say, “Thank you, dear candidates for buying those commercials which help fund my weekly paycheck.”
But the voice inside my head says, “Thank God we don’t have to watch them anymore.”
I grew up in Alabama, so I’m no newcomer to nasty campaigns. George Wallace lost a statewide election in 1958 and soon figured out the other guy out-nastied him. He vowed not to let that happen again, and he never lost another statewide election.
As ugly as those campaigns were, they don’t hold a candle to what we’re seeing now. Whatever civility we might have gained in the post-Wallace era has been replaced by “rasslin”-style chair-throwing and name-calling. Some blame social media, and it certainly hasn’t helped. But it merely provides a bullhorn for the hatred that was once limited to small gatherings. Back in the day, folks argued face to face, and they usually knew their adversary. Now they fuss and cuss at total strangers with made-up names.
Next week, many a Thanksgiving table will host a blessing, a turkey, and a political debate. The recipe is simple. The more guests you have, the less likely it is that all share the same opinions. Since there’s no middle ground these days, all it takes is for one person to say, “Trump is the best president ever,” or “Trump is the biggest crook ever,” and the food fight begins. One young friend of mine is dreading Thanksgiving. “My parents and I don’t see eye to eye,” she told me. “It never ends well.”
Just before the election, President Trump spoke at a Republican rally in Chattanooga. I was among the TV newscasters who covered the event, from “wheels down” to “wheels up.” During the live, three-hour broadcast, I had to talk a lot, perhaps confirming the belief among some that I get paid by the word.
At the end of the broadcast, I checked my messages, via phone, e-mail, and social media. Several folks complimented our news coverage, and were thankful they heard every word spoken by the president. Even some who don’t like him expressed their appreciation for the chance to witness history in their hometown.
However, as I told my colleagues prior to the event, you can’t please everyone. Here are excerpts from two messages I received shortly after our broadcast.
“Your station is full of ----. Why are you advertising for this awful man? And you, Mr. Carroll, made it very clear that you’re Trump’s biggest fan.”
The next one read, “I’m so glad you carried President Trump’s speech from start to finish. The only downside was your obvious dislike for him. You just couldn’t hide it, could you? You are small town CNN.” I responded, “What did I say to make you think that?” The viewer responded, “You didn’t have to say it. I saw it in your eyes.”
Also, there were folks who complained, “You’re only showing this because he’s a Republican.”
That reminded me of the last time we carried a president’s speech in 2013, when some said, “You’re only showing Obama because he’s a Democrat.” The truth is, ever since we have been able to do live remote broadcasts, we’ve carried every presidential speech in our local viewing area, Republicans and Democrats alike. Trust me, if your Aunt Betty the Libertarian is our next president and she comes to town, we will carry her speech.
It’s why I generally keep this column free of politics. You get enough of that elsewhere. Ironically, just days after publishing my column about using YouTube videos to unclog a toilet, an editor thanked me for the diversion. He wrote, “I’m glad you're writing about stuff other than politics. Not only is politics itself just nasty, that and the 24-hour news cycle have worked everyone into a frenzy.”
In fact, when I speak to clubs and church groups about my books, I always start with the same line: “You’re about to hear a TV newsman talk for twenty minutes, without ever mentioning Trump, Clinton, Obama, Mitch McConnell, or Nancy Pelosi.” The audience always applauds, and once I even got a standing ovation. (Occasionally I get a standing ovation at the end of my speech. Or maybe they’re just getting up to be first in line at the buffet.)
So at your holiday gathering, when your loud uncle expresses a differing opinion, kindly excuse yourself. Tell everyone the toilet is clogged, and thanks to my recent column, you have learned how to fix it yourself.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, can be reached by mail at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or by email at email@example.com.