It may not be an exaggeration to say that the fate of American democracy depends upon the Mueller investigation. (There are plausible scenarios that would substantiate that assertion.)
And it may not be an exaggeration to say that the fate of the Mueller investigation depends on what proportion of the American people credit its findings. (If too many people automatically dismiss Mueller’s report as “fake news,” or a frame-up, the issuance of that report might do more to intensify our Trump-induced national crisis than to resolve it.)
Given those stakes, one thing is alarmingly clear: the Mueller investigation is being attacked more intensely and more effectively than it is being defended.
(Does this bit of news not prove that?
According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released on Friday, 45 percent of Americans disapprove of how Mr. Mueller is handling the investigation, a 14-point increase from January.)
The propaganda campaign of the Trumpites is “bearing fruit,” as the Washington Post, says, and as the Trump strategy apparently assumes.
“The more time Mr. Trump and his lawyers have to influence Americans’ views of the inquiry, the better their chances to undermine its credibility and pressure lawmakers not to impeach Mr. Trump.”
But time is on their side only while those supporting the Mueller investigation allow themselves to be out-shouted by the Trumpites.
Admittedly, there’s the problem of an asymmetry between Trump and Mueller: Trump and his minions are free to propagandize against Mueller, while Mueller and his investigators and prosecutors are obliged to stay mute.
But the outcome of the contest between the truth and the lie does not have to be determined by that handicap. The many people who support the investigation could step in — and step up — to redress that imbalance.
It’s not enough to communicate with those already deeply committed.
In media outlets like the New York Times and MSNBC, excellent people appear regularly, saying truly excellent things. It seems reasonable to imagine that if those 14% of Americans who have moved this year to disapproving of the Mueller investigation had read and seen what many of us have, they’d know that the Mueller investigation is anything but fake.
They’d know that this investigation is likely as worthy of respect as anything we’ve seen our government do.
And they’d know that the evidence against Trump and his team has become increasingly damning– that the emerging picture seems likely to reveal more profound corruption and betrayal of the nation than ever seen before in the American presidency.
But they don’t know that. And it seems safe to assume the reason they don’t know is that they aren’t being exposed to important information.
The fact that important information is not reaching wide swaths of the American public was pretty conclusively indicated roughly a month ago when it was discovered that some 59 percent of Americans believed the Mueller investigation had not uncovered any wrong-doing. They held this false notion despite the reality that Mueller and company had already bagged a number of guilty pleas and an even greater number of indictments.
So we who want the Mueller investigation to help cleanse the nation should be asking: What would it look like if our side were working as hard and well to inform and persuade the broad American public as Trump’s side is to misinform and persuade them?
Can anyone claim that what we’re seeing now looks anything like that?
It’s not enough for the people saying excellent things to reach those already motivated enough to read the fine articles in the Times and watch the fine shows on MSNBC. Ways must be found to get the essential picture in front of people like those 14% whose opinions migrated in the wrong direction.
Some may say that there’s no way that the side supporting Mueller — including the Democrats in Congress — can match the propaganda power of the President with his bully pulpit.
That argument would be more persuasive if we had not seen how the Democrats had been bested again and again by Republicans in the battle for public opinion even when the Democrats owned that bully pulpit for the eight years from 2009-2017.
I am in no way claiming that it is obvious what is the best way to wage that campaign to maximize the proportion of the American people who will lend credence to Mueller’s eventual findings.
But the problem seems to be less that the pro-Mueller side — including the Democrats with the most prominent voices — has not come up with the optimal answer to that question of “how” than that the question seems not even being asked.
The room for escalating the messaging is vast, and at the very least we should call upon our leaders to create the dramas that will get the attention of the many Americans who don’t know what American citizens now need to know.
Since our democracy may well be at stake, ought not an all-out effort be made to reach all the Americans who might be reachable?
We cannot afford to regard Mueller’s investigation as a spectator sport. He needs support from the pro-rule-of-law team.