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Amid the food desert of greasy chain joints in eastern San Diego County is a healthy oasis called Crafted Greens. The grilled salmon niçoise salad is worth every penny of the $20—including tip—I pay for it.
I was headed in there on a recent Saturday afternoon when a man sitting on the patio with two friends smiled, raised his hand, and said, “I haven’t seen you in a long time!”
As far as I knew, I’d never seen him before in my life. He turned out to be Jim Bates, who served in the U.S. House from 1983 to 1991, and his opening sally was the gambit of an expert campaigner.
I was with my friend Beth, and we struck up a chat, which quickly turned to politics, which immediately had us all litmus-testing each other: Were we compadres or natural enemies?
Jim said he’d served in Congress as a Democrat, but is “Trump all the way.” His friend Kent said, “I’m a lifelong Democrat, and I’m voting for Trump.” Another gentleman, Stan Caplan, ran for Congress in 2022 as a Republican. This year, he’s running as an independent.
I revealed that I’m a Christian libertarian. Until January 2021, I was a registered Republican, I told my new friends. But the Horned Shaman Wing of the GOP prompted me to exit the party. Among the five of us, only Beth had not changed her party affiliation: She’s a Trump Republican.
So much party churn on just that little patio that it made me wonder about the rest of the country. Sure enough, January data from Gallup reflected similar trends. The number of people who identify as independents has leaped to 43 percent, tying the previous high-water mark from 2014. The percentage identifying as Democrats is the same as that for Republicans (27 percent)—but for Dems that’s an all-time low. In fact, Democrat identification has slumped 1 percentage point each year Biden has been president, according to Gallup.
Pollsters chalk this up to the president’s unpopularity. But they might look more deeply, at the moral insanity that infects the party’s policies. “Crazy” is the word Jim Bates used. And he tells me he and his friend Kent aren’t the only politically active Democrats he knows who think so. And while many shy from Trump’s cantankerous, in-your-face style, Jim has voted for Trump twice precisely because “he’s a disruptor.”
It remains fashionable to divide the political world into pro- and anti-Trump, as if either group were monolithic. We get letters from readers and listeners who complain we don’t give the former president enough credit or that we play up his legal woes while ignoring Joe Biden’s. Others write to say we’re too Trumpy.
I suppose it’s a good sign when journalists are equal-opportunity irritants. As a 501(c)(3), we neither endorse political candidates nor hold an editorial “position” on any candidate. Our staffers, readers, and listeners are diverse in their views on both candidates and parties. Our job is to report, not decide.
When it comes to electoral politics, many media companies, including large ones, have abandoned any pretense of fair and balanced coverage. This leaves the lane known as “professional journalism” remarkably wide open. In covering Election 2024, we’ll apply basic practices of sound journalism, which are increasingly rare in media today:
We will report on election-related developments without respect for persons. Recognizing that passionate views are likely to permeate this election cycle, we will strive with each story to report diverse viewpoints. When there are competing views, we will strive to report them all. Finally, we will avoid the kind of polarizing and inflammatory language I’ve already seen crop up on another site that claims to deliver the news. (I won’t name the site, but its initials are CNN.)
As this election heats up, it’s sure to be exciting and full of twists and turns. But we can report exciting political stories without becoming excitable, for our faith is not in princes but in God.