Ex-reporter transitions to political partisan
It feels good to be off the sidelines
A YEAR AGO, I was a nonpartisan political reporter in Massachusetts, happy to give people from either side of the spectrum due credit or due comeuppance. No longer. Now I am a full partisan in a battleground state.
I display a Biden-Harris sign in our window. I proudly wear my Biden-Harris T-shirt. I have made small-dollar donations to Biden and Democratic US Senate candidates in several states. I recently went door-knocking for the Democratic ticket and plan to do so again. I will be a partisan poll watcher on Election Day. The humble platform my reporting and commentary has earned me on social media over the years, I have put into service for Democratic partisan aims.
So what happened? Look around. President Trump and the Republican establishment that has enabled him are responsible for the raging unchecked pandemic, the hatred unleashed on American streets, and the obsequious caving to hostile foreign powers. That is not just a summary. It is also an understatement. Trump is the closest thing to evil that I have ever seen. Traditional notions of politesse can and should be broken under those circumstances.
I can’t divorce my political conversion from my professional one. About a year ago, I quit the best job I ever had – as a reporter at CommonWealth magazine – to move to Philadelphia. My partner got a great job in the Philly area, and we both wanted to see what it would be like to live in another part of the country. In the process, I left journalism and enrolled in law school. Among other things, that career change released me from the journalistic code of nonpartisanship.
These past several months have brought those Democratic leanings to the fore. I followed the impeachment trial and saw a strong case presented that Trump corruptly used the might of the United States to pressure a vulnerable ally to create dirt on his political opponent. There was no counterargument, just a power-move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to sweep those charges aside.
Then Trump started lying about the coronavirus pandemic, fighting against facts, and acting recklessly. I am certain that Trump could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths with a straightforward, science-based, pragmatic response to the pandemic, but for bizarre and unconscionable reasons he chose a very different course. When Americans across the United States called for an end to racist police behavior that is killing people, Trump turned it into another culture war where he teamed up with the white supremacists. Trump wants to make that problem worse.
My quarrel is not with traditional conservative principles. I was a true neutral in the last two gubernatorial contests in Massachusetts. The Republican legislative leaders in Massachusetts I have found to be charismatic and often persuasive. When I was a reporter, I enjoyed the freedom of being untethered to either side. Of course, I developed opinions about what people said, but my philosophy was to not adhere to any political idea or especially any politician.
But the circumstances have changed, and so has my perspective. There is a monster in charge of the Republican party, and Democrats are the only group putting up a fight. I have lost a lot of respect for Republicans who are either blind to what’s happening or pretend to be for political purposes, and I have lost all respect for Republicans who support Trump. At the same time, I have gained new appreciation for Democrats and their ideas. I hope Democrats will soon have a chance to put their policies into action nationally and across the states.
Although I am now a partisan, I still understand the importance of a nonpartisan press. I am in awe of my former colleagues at large who have weathered the upheaval of the past year while keeping their focus on straightforward, nonpartisan factual analysis. I also wonder what they think of me. Does my new partisanship offend them? When I was a reporter, journalism felt like an exclusive society with its own language and unwritten code of conduct. One of the tenets of that code is to refrain from choosing a side in political disputes. That is a useful rule for reporters to stay above the fray, maintain an open mind, and an open channel of communication with newsmakers. I am no longer bound by that code.
When I was a reporter, I had values that I still hold today: Truth, reason, democracy. Those are all at stake in the upcoming election. Trump is an erratic liar who has been cagey about whether he will even abide by the results of the election. Trumpism is repellent to those nonpartisan values, and to me at least they have become partisan issues. Only one side of the political divide truly stands up for those things. If you believe in honesty, decency and fair elections, support the Democrats. It is simple.
Andy Metzger, formerly a reporter at CommonWealth, is currently attending law school at Temple University in Philadelphia.