Column: Don’t succumb to political fatigue

Only three weeks into the presidency of Donald Trump, the general public are feeling oversaturated with political news. As a result, Americans are experiencing a decline in productivity in the face of a seemingly endless cycle of executive orders, controversial tweets and political scandals that spell out uncertainty for the future of the country.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post cited a BetterWorks survey of 500 full-time American employees, finding that the subjects spend around two hours a day consuming political social media posts, an average of 14 posts each workday.

This wasn’t the first time I was introduced to the idea that the Trump presidency might be a bit too much for those who live life without the constant intrusion of political turmoil. In Slate’s Feb. 2 “Political Gabfest” podcast — highly recommended for sane political conversation — host and Atlas Obscura CEO David Plotz said most Americans would likely rather focus on less essential topics like Beyoncé’s pregnancy or their kid’s softball game.

“This uncertainty and this chaos and this doubt is a tax on people,” Plotz said. “It makes you unable to focus on things that you would really like to focus on in your life.”

Plotz goes on to say that the nomination of a Supreme Court judge would normally be the biggest story of a month, but last week’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch was barely the biggest story of the day, much less the week or month. There’s simply too much to keep up with.

Political participation by the general public is, of course, a wonderful thing. But Americans aren’t paying attention to the news because they want to be well-informed. They’re paying attention because they’re frightened and apprehensive that they won’t be able to able to recognize the America they know today in four years’ time.

Despite clear negatives this week — the confirmations of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education and Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Trump’s unprecedented attacks on the judicial branch, Trump’s authoritarian assertion that “any negative polls are fake news” and Trump’s tyrannical threat to “destroy” the career of a Texas senator — there were quite a few positives that indicate oppositional forces are nowhere near backing down in the face of this administration’s constant barrage of moral and lawful dubiousness.

As someone studying journalism, I’m making it a habit to consume everything; it could be my job one day, after all. But if you’re not masochistic enough to do the same, I recommend focusing on the positives.

For example, an unfavorable (but mostly accurate) “Saturday Night Live” sketch resulted in a more subdued, grounded performance by Trump press secretary Sean Spicer during press briefings this week. And another “SNL” sketch portraying the relationship between the president and Chief Strategist/Actual President Steve Bannon may have been the catalyst for this instantly meme-worthy, pathetic tweet from the leader of the free world:

“I call my own shots, largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it. Some FAKE NEWS media, in order to marginalize, lies!”

And despite the constant attacks, the media regained its footing this week, notably by refusing to allow Trump Counselor KellyAnne Conway a platform to spread easily falsifiable information; CNN said they “passed” on Conway for a Sunday appearance on “State of the Union” and MSBNC suggested CNN wasn’t the first to decline the counselor.

This overdo skepticism of Conway’s credibility culminated in an interview between CNN host Jake Tapper and Conway, during which Tapper relentlessly, but fairly grilled the founder of “alternative facts” for her frequent mischaracterizations of the truth (or, you know, “lies”).

And the silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, on the senate floor proved to be a moment of perseverance for women in politics rather than of defeat. McConnell even aided in Warren’s outreach when he spoke of his decision to silence the senator.

“She was warned,” McConnell said. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Since, “nevertheless, she persisted” has become a rallying cry to point out the women in American history, past and present, who have refused to be silenced by oppresive forces.

And, in another upset for the Trump administration, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Thursday the Justice Department’s effort to reinstate last month’s travel ban.

So, if you’re having trouble keeping up with the news, don’t give in to the political fatigue. These are incredible times in American history that demand your attention. Just remember to balance the good with the bad because, although it may seem like everything is going wrong, there are quite a few encouraging developments to prepare you for what’s coming next.

Jared Casto can be contacted at [email protected]