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Moats: Twitter Power

People sometimes ask, “Why can’t the media just ignore the crazy tweets coming out of the White House?”

The usual answer is that it’s the president of the United States — what he does is news — and even if some Americans would like to tune him out, leaders around the world are trying to decipher the meaning of his words, and so we need to do so,

Others are pleased to hear from the president. He’s expressing their discontent with the media and the institutions of government. In that way, the president is setting a particular tone. But there’s something else going on. The controversy engulfing the White House can’t be ignored because it’s a sign of something larger: It’s the sign of crisis, and there is no wishing it away.

The crisis is not a fabrication of the left. Leading figures of the Trump administration have already pleaded guilty to crimes, and others have been charged. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have said without equivocation that Russia has been working to sabotage our democracy, which is a crisis by any standard, especially if Americans helped.

So we’re in the middle of something, and one way or another we have to get through it, as we got through Watergate. It doesn’t feel good to be in the middle of it. It amplifies the sense that our politics are dysfunctional and our leaders are clueless. But the president’s tweets are not the last word.

Only in a dictatorship does one man have the last word, and even then it doesn’t usually end well. The special prosecutor, the courts, and other political voices will also have their say. And so will the voters.

Meanwhile, we carry on. In Vermont we take pride in the civic engagement and spirit of innovation of Vermonters, which creates positive momentum independent of the crisis in Washington. And it turns out we’re not alone.

Author James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic, found similar positive change occurring all across the country in places as
diverse as Erie, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; and Fresno, California.

Maybe the next president will swear off Twitter and focus on the duties of his or her job. In the meantime, we have our lives to live as we watch the present crisis unfold. We’ll continue to pay attention, but it helps to know that in a democracy, the last word rests with us.

David Moats is an author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
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