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Paul Fanlund is editor and publisher of The Capital Times. A longtime Madisonian, he was a State Journal reporter and editor before becoming a vice president of Madison Newspapers. He joined the Cap Times in 2006.

Trump rally in Montana

Fomenting hatred of the press is just one of many Donald Trump tactics his mainstream supporters know is wrong, but still they do nothing.

In his book “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” author John Gray argued that many common relationship problems stem from fundamental psychological differences between the genders. His book sold 50 million copies and generated spinoff books, recordings, seminars, theme vacations and even a pair of his-or-her salad dressings.

It seems clear the gap between Republicans and Democrats in 2018 has assumed its own planetary proportions.

In a recent talk on the current state of the press, I cited a poll by the website Axios in which 92 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they believe traditional news outlets knowingly report false or misleading stories.

Let that sink in.

Overwhelmingly, Republicans tell pollsters they think mainstream professional journalists just make stuff up.

That near unanimity goes way beyond the true Donald Trump faithful who flock to his rallies in “Make America Great Again” hats and “lock her up” T-shirts to roar their approval when the president turns an especially racist or misogynistic phrase.

The math dictates that it has to include plenty of main-street Republicans, too, educated middle- and upper-middle-class conservatives.

And that’s my central point today, or at least my target: the vast subset of Republicans who, in their hearts, know that what is going on — the lies and the assaults on institutions — is wrong, even anti-American.

Paul Krugman, the brilliant New York Times columnist, made a similar point recently when he took the captains of corporate America to task.

He described a tacit alliance between big business and the wealthy as one element and racists as the other. “For a long time business seemed to have this game under control: win elections with racial dog whistles, then turn to an agenda of tax cuts and deregulation,” Krugman wrote.

“But sooner or later something like Trump was going to happen: a candidate who meant the racism seriously, with the enthusiastic support of the Republican base, and couldn’t be controlled.”

My point is different: It is that upstanding main street Republicans in towns across America, church-goers and chamber of commerce members, are simply abiding the obscenities of this Trump era.

They are even willing to say the press lies — that it is corrupt and hateful — rather than acknowledge the truth.

Here’s my question: Why would professionally trained journalists lie or distort any more than a pharmacist would intentionally screw up a prescription or a lawyer purposely botch a will? It’s illogical, nonsensical.

In my recent public talk about the press, I suggested listeners force themselves to read or listen to sources of news or information they disagree with to better understand the other side.

In that spirit, let’s go down the rabbit hole of Republican-think reflected in a recent GOP survey distributed to prospective donors in our congressional district and passed along to me.

The cover letter from the Republican National Committee proclaims matter-of-factly that Democrats and the mainstream media spread fake news about President Trump to prevent “real facts” from getting out.

Remember, this isn’t the Steve Bannon wing-nut brigade. This is a huge, mainstream organization that backs GOP candidates.

The accompanying tri-fold questionnaire asks so many loaded questions I was surprised I could lift it. Asked one: “Do you support canceling all of Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders that created new regulations, fees, and other freedom-destroying measures?” (And note, it is “President” Trump but “Barack” Obama in the text because there’s no term limit on disrespect.)

The survey asks whether climate change poses a major threat, but precedes the question with this: “The Democrats’ fixation on climate change has led to costly regulations that are negatively affecting our nation across-the-board.”

And then there’s the question about the press: “Do you believe the national media has a strong bias against all things Donald Trump and Republicans and failed to tell America’s voters the real facts about Republicans policies, principles, goals and accomplishments?”

A separate letter from Melania Trump claims the “opposition” media is spreading fake news and making it appear, incorrectly, that her husband enjoys less than overwhelming national support.

Again, main-street Republicans apparently accept, even endorse, this view, judging by the Axios poll.

This unrelenting attack on the press shows itself in odd ways.

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Consider the recent newsroom murders in Annapolis, Maryland. After the shooting, the city’s mayor, Gavin Buckley, said the Annapolis Capital-Gazette covers kids’ soccer games and what he called “good, local interesting stuff,” and added: “The paper is not a liberal newspaper, it’s not a right-wing newspaper; it stays in the middle and covers local issues.” So, if someone had started shooting up a newsroom with a strong history in its opinion voice, well, that would have made more sense?

That’s where we are, with a president who calls journalists dishonest, evil people who hate America. Traditional Republicans fail to object.

As I scanned the mailings, I imagined some longtime local Republican in an easy chair paging through it; maybe a real estate developer, an accountant, a small business owner, an architect or an engineer.

Sure, you were not down with the Obama presidency, but there was no racial animus, none at all.

And you smiled when Hillary Clinton lost because you saw her as pompous and self-entitled, but there was no underlying sexism, none at all.

And these days, while you are troubled by how Trump is butchering trade policy, you’re getting your taxes cut.

So you sit by as Trump tries to dismantle America’s institutions, one by one, the press being just one example.

You know, one day, prosperous white Republicans may not dominate American public affairs like today. Birth rates suggest that trend.

So, have all of you thought through what depths of national disunity you will leave to your children and grandchildren? Do you think maybe, when the tide turns, the other side might have long memories?

And what might that look like?

Just food for thought.

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