Steve Bannon Called the Media ‘The Opposition Party.’ He’s Right.

It’s not the job of the American press to make Trump look good

Trump Inauguration

Trump White House Strategist Steve Bannon is seen at President Trump’s inauguration in Washington.

For being the former media executive chair of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon doesn’t seem to know much about the media.

The White House strategist unleashed a scathing, ludicrous and outright terrifying critique of the media on Thursday, saying news organizations need to “keep its mouth shut,” “should be embarrassed and humiliated” and repeatedly referred to them as “the opposition party.”

This may very well be the only time I agree with this man.

Yes, Mr. Bannon, the media is the opposition party. If you are in the White House, we are the government watchdogs. If you are in power, we are the fourth estate that provides a check on that power. We are, for all intents and purposes, the very guardians of democracy.

Someone needs to tell you and your new boss that he is not on The Apprentice anymore. He’s no longer the star, and this is a different kind of show. Our job is not to make him look good just because he’s the man in the chair with the cameras on him. While he has a government to run and a country of 300 million people to protect, he and his staff have been more occupied with addressing the news organizations that used pictures of him with a double chin, or goodness gracious, how freaking large his inauguration crowd was.

What happened to all press is good press?

This is the United States. It is not illegal to criticize the current administration. Asking tough questions and demanding specific answers does not make journalists corrupt. Reporters who point out that you’re wrong when you’re wrong — with adequate evidence to support it — does not make them dishonest.

Now, let’s be clear here. No presodent likes the media. And the mass media have problems, problems that undoubtedly need to be seriously addressed. I personally have a long list of complaints about their operations. Yes, the mass media pundits and analysts wrongly predicted the outcome of the recent presidential election. There are a lot of reasons why people distrust the media that do in fact have merit. But keep our mouth shut, we will not.

Mr. Bannon, you and President Trump have given the press a crystal clear reason why we shouldn’t. After you said the media should shut its mouth, you said the media should “just listen for a while.”

Well, we’ve been listening.

We’ve been listening when our president and his press secretary have insisted that Trump’s inauguration crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration” when it simply wasn’t. We’ve been listening when our president, three months after he was fairly elected, continues to insist that he won the popular vote and that the 3 million more votes Hillary Clinton received were illegally cast without providing any information to support such a claim. We were listening this week when Trump claimed that the murder rate in Philadelphia was on the rise, even though law enforcement data shows that violent crime in the city is at its lowest level since 1979. Goodness, Mr. Trump couldn’t even tell the truth about when it rained during his inauguration.

And all of those “alternative facts” are just the ones brought up during the period Trump has been president — one week.

We’ve been talking so much lately about fake news and about those who produce and share it. Heck, we don’t even need them anymore. Our president’s press secretary already provided false information on his first day on the job — information that many Americans already knew was false. When asked by The New York Times whether the press secretary lost credibility after he gave that false information, Mr. Bannon replied with “Are you kidding me? We think that’s a badge of honor. ‘Questioning his integrity’ — are you kidding me? The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work.”

Yes, that’s right. President Trump’s strategist, a man who has an office in the West Wing, believes that spewing false information to the public is worth a “badge of honor.”

And now, Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House Science panel, is telling the American people that it’s “better to get your news directly from the president.”

That’s called state-run media. That’s what they do in North Korea.

We don’t live in North Korea.

And while inauguration crowd sizes and when it rained are completely irrelevant in presidential legacies, we need to keep this question in mind: If the administration has put up such a fight over such meaningless things like these, what kind of a fight will be waged on things that actually involve our money, laws and national security?

That, Mr. Bannon, is why we are the opposition party.

If you and President Trump really want a “running war with the media,” you’ve got one.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

Now Is the Time For Us To Be More Understanding

If we’re never going to all be the same, the next best thing is to at least understand those who are different

Trump Inauguration Protest

David Holahan of The Washington Post recently wrote, “I’ll survive the Trump administration. Maybe some good will come of it, inadvertently or otherwise. What we may not survive is the trend toward labeling everyone who disagrees with us as stupid or — worse — ill-intentioned.”

That sort of labeling has perhaps never been more on display than it is now, and its seriousness cannot be overstated.

Because I’m a studier of the American presidency — and because I was at work — I didn’t go to bed on the morning of Nov. 9 until I knew who was elected president. I finally got to bed at 6 a.m. but had to wake up at 8:30 because I had scheduled a car service appointment. When I did, many people were also waking up and discovering the results of the night for the first time. I went onto social media and saw the onslaught that I wasn’t prepared for, but knew would be coming.

On Twitter, Trump supporters called Hillary Clinton supporters crybabies, wusses and idiots. On Facebook, Clinton supporters called Trump voters retarded, deplorable and redneck inbreds. People announced they were deleting all of their Facebook friends who voted for the candidate they didn’t like. On Twitter, someone posted a picture of a wall in Durham, North Carolina, spraypainted with “black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes.” Former Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam sent out a tweet calling rural Americans “so stupid” and a clip showed MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow basically saying those who voted for a third party candidate just didn’t care who becomes president.

Now as protests fill the streets and we squabble over something ridiculous as how large the inauguration crowd was, many wonder if the nation will ever be able to heal from the deep wounds the 2016 presidential election inflicted upon us. We know the country has been divided for some time, but the election was able to bring those divisions out into the open — right versus left, rich versus poor, black versus white, man versus woman, religious versus atheist, rural versus urban, old versus young — and so on.

But I’ve argued throughout the long campaign and continue to argue that the greatest thing about the United States is its division. We’re never going to all be the same. There’s just too many of us. And who says we should be? The country has always been a collection of states and towns each with their own ways of life. So if we’re never going to all be the same, the next best thing we can do is to at least understand those who are different from us. I didn’t vote for either Trump or Clinton for president. But I understand why other people did. I’m neither a Republican nor Democrat. But I understand why other people align themselves with such ideologies.

Unfortunately, our politics have become so bitter in recent years that many on both sides have retreated to their own “safe spaces.” We gather only among those we agree with. We only get news and information from biased sources that support our beliefs and are reluctant to consider or even listen to the beliefs of those we disagree with. But doing so actually further bitters our politics. That kind of retreat put us in our own bubble. We completely lose all sense of what the other side is fighting for, and then we go online and write “how in your right mind could you vote this way?” in reply to memes, blogs and news stories. It’s time to come out of our bubbles.

I’ve been able to become friends with wonderful people with all sorts of political beliefs and backgrounds. Sometimes, we disagree on certain things. But that alone has never been a reason for me to unfriend them or insult their intelligence. Who we voted for and what we vote for should never be anyone’s ultimate branding. And as long as we’re respectful about it, we should all be able to feel comfortable expressing what we believe in without feeling like we’re a bad person. You want to partake in a woman protest in Washington? Fine. You think the protest is silly? Great. We live in a country where we are able to do both. You’re a conservative? Fantastic. You’re a liberal? Knock yourself out. We don’t have to agree with one another to still be civil with one another.

And, the more we reach out to those we disagree with, the more we search for that middle ground, the more we will find out that we really aren’t all that different. We all want a government that works for us and doesn’t take advantage of us. We all want the water we drink and bathe in to be clean. We all want our children to get the best education possible. We all want our elected leaders, from the White House to the county courthouse, to be held accountable for their actions and words.

We just have different visions on how to go about those things. And that’s what a democracy is supposed to be all about.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

What President Obama Did For Me

There’s been a lot of talk about Obama’s legacy on the country. But overlooked is his legacy on the individual.

2008 Democratic National Convention: Day 4

President Barack Obama is seen on the night he was first elected on Nov. 4, 2008.

For me, I guess it was sometime in March of 2007. It was a cold morning and I was watching the news while eating breakfast like I usually did. That’s when I heard the name “Barack Obama” for the first time.

The 45-year-old senator from Illinois had officially been a Democratic candidate for president for more than a month, but at the time, I was too occupied with algebra, memorizing lines for my role in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and chasing girls to pay much attention to national politics. I was only a 13-year-old eighth grader after all.

Of course, the first thing about this Obama character I and everyone else recognized was obvious. The closest I had ever come to seeing an African American president was in the movie Deep Impact. And as a child of 21st century Middle Eastern wars, I recognized that this guy’s last name sounded remarkably similar to the name of a bad man far away who was responsible for killing thousands of Americans. And his middle name was the same as the last name as the other bad guy I grew up hearing about in the news.

He could never get elected president, I thought.

But as I watched his journey over the next few months, I found myself changing. Two years after I had walked around school saying that history and politics were “the most boring topics in the entire universe,” I I began learning more about what a president does. I began watching the presidential debates. I connected the Social Security Act that I had learned about in school with the social security that the candidates in those debates were talking about.

And nearly a year after that cold morning when I first heard his name, I watched Obama win the Democratic Iowa caucus in a decisive victory and saw him give what is personally my favorite speech of his — the infamous “They said this day would never come” speech. It was different than anything I had ever heard a politician say before. It was moving. It was inspiring. It was magic.

One day, he said, the American people will look back at this day and say, “This is the moment when it all began.”

I can say for myself personally that it really was.

Politics was no longer boring. I found myself continuously watching the news, keeping up to date on coverage of the race. I began rushing home from school to watch primary results, learn about the states in the primaries to come, did delegate math and kept watching the debates.

By election night, I had familiarized myself with the polls, the Electoral College and the issues that people were most concerned about. I had never watched election night coverage before. I was ecstatic. I was watching democracy in action and history in the making.

And then history came. I heard Katie Couric say that Obama had won the states of California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii, carrying him over 270 electoral votes needed to make him the 44th president. For many people in my generation, that night was something special, something we won’t forget, something we can tell future generations that we lived to see.

One day, he said, the American people will look back at this day and say, “This is the moment when it all began.” I can say for myself personally that it really was.

I couldn’t help but think about that night last week when Obama gave his farewell address, and how different life will be without him in the Oval Office. For anyone else my age, he’s been president for one-third of our lives. We grew up with him. When he was elected, I had gel in my hair, had started watching this new show called Big Bang Theory and couldn’t drive yet. As he leaves office, I pay taxes, shovel out student loans and work as an editor and political commentator for this blog — something I never dreamed I would be doing ten years after that morning I first heard about Barack Obama.

There’s been so much conversation in the last year and in the last few weeks about what Obama’s legacy will be on the country. But overlooked I think is the legacy he will have on the individual. Sure, he made healthcare affordable for millions of Americans. He made the economy come back from a harmful recession. He made new beginnings with old adversaries and made greener energy a definite part of the near future.

My legacy for him is simpler. He made me care.

He made me care about my future, my tax dollars, my education, my role in the world. He made me care about the things that matter, and made me want to help others care along the way. And I know I’m not alone. I believe his determination, energy, message and class ignited a whole generation to stand up for what they believe in — whether it’s running for office, joining a political organization with a purpose or just simply voting for the first time. And many of them probably remember the first time they heard the name Barack Obama too.

Now, it might sound like the outgoing president is a large hero of mine. But I don’t think I would call him that. In my mind, he is no where even close to being one of our greatest presidents ever, as so many have so casually labeled him as. I believe his success has been way overstated. On many occasions, I have disagreed with him and criticized him for many of his decisions. I have a long list of problems with this administration. If you don’t believe me, just read my last post. And if you must know, yes, he was the first president I ever voted for, in 2012, but I wouldn’t have voted for him in 2016 if circumstances allowed (for the record, I didn’t vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump either).

For you see, he may have made me care about the political world. But that means he made me care about holding politicians accountable, including him. He made me care about making sure all Americans are not taken advantage of by those who we elect into office. Perhaps most of all, he made me care about the office of the presidency, and how crucial a role it is to our republic. I’ve spent the last eight years studying the office and all those who held it before him.

Whoever holds that high title is the chief executive of this nation, the commander in chief, the leader of the free world. The president preserves, protects and defends the Constitution, and lends us years of their time, wisdom and energy to further perfect our union. And most importantly, the president never stays for long. We have an election for president every four years for a reason. Change is good in a democracy. The torch has been passed once again and we shall see another peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20.

So, as we close the door on the Obama presidency, many people who know I study the executive office have asked me what I think of the job he’s done. The best answer I can come up with is something I remember George W. Bush saying during his farewell address. “You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made,” he said. “But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.”

And it is in that spirit that I wish President Obama well, thank him for his service for this great country and thank him for what he did for me. I am now immersed in a career field that has both righteousness and ugliness. But I know it’s where I want to be. And Barack Obama helped me get there.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

Barack Obama: The Change We Believed In — And Shouldn’t Have

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia Obama

President Barack Obama gives his farewell address Jan. 10 in Chicago.


That was what Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was selling to the American people during his campaign for the presidency in 2008. And it worked.

“Because of what we did on this date, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” Obama said in his first speech to the nation as president-elect.

Yes, a lot has changed.

Perhaps none more so than the place where it all begins, the place we direct our frustrations to, the place Obama said he’d turn upside down — the halls and chambers of the Capitol, the heart of our government’s operations.

“We’ve got to change how business is done in Washington,” Obama once said to a Pennsylvania crowd.

While we were enduring two tiring foreign wars and an economy in free-fall, a significant reason for Obama the candidate’s ascendancy was his insistence that he was the one who would transform a political system that was controlled by the rich and powerful, a system that had ballooned the influence of money in our electoral process.

Obama the president spent his tenure religiously criticizing Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. That decision helped expand the spending of dark money to spooky levels — from $5.6 million in the 2006 midterm elections to over $300 million in the 2012 presidential election — and the 2016 amount surpassed that long ago.

Yet Obama took little measures within his authority to slow the flow of dark money, and of course, used it to his advantage. After failing to get legislation through Congress, Democrats urged Obama last year to issue an executive order requiring large federal contractors to disclose their political spending, which would cover 70 percent of the Fortune 100 and serve as a valuable protection against pay-to-play corruption — a bipartisan measure that even 66 percent of Republicans in Congress supported. Such an executive order, and several others like it, was never signed. Instead, Obama did rally for support of the 2014 “CRomnibus” spending bill, which allowed a six-fold increase in the contribution donors can contribute to political parties.

In addition, during his first bid, Obama also said he didn’t want support from super PACs, saying they were a “threat to democracy.” In 2011, he repeated the same rhetoric. But it didn’t last long. Obama’s super PAC, Priorities USA Action, would raise almost $80 million for his re-election campaign in 2012. Now they’re a normal part of our elections, with Democratic super PACs raising more than $267 million for his hopeful successor, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.

Yes, a lot has changed.

And if we’re talking about “transparency,” a word the president used in his farewell address last week, it wasn’t just about money in politics. On his very first day in office, Obama issued an executive order stimulating the Freedom of Information Act, stating that “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” But an Associated Press study released last year found that his administration was the most secretive out of any recent president, saying that it “more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to [journalists] under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.” It also denied fulfilling a third of all FOIA requests sent in the 2015 year.

His Justice Department was also notorious for cracking down on journalists and whistle blowers from leaking information, so much so that Washington Post Vice President Leonard Downie Jr., who worked there during the Watergate investigation, said in 2013 that Obama’s “escalating war on leaks is the most militant I have seen since the Nixon administration.”

Yes, a lot has changed.

But what changed most of all were those who make up Washington. Obama promised he could unite a broken government to help bring together a divided country. Two terms later, partisanship and government gridlock are at levels unseen in modern times. Throughout the last eight years, Republicans and Democrats have struggled to compromise, sometimes even talk, the government was shut down, budgets have failed to pass and presidential appointments stonewalled.

Now, this is where Obama and Democrats will point their fingers at Republicans for their obstruction of the president’s agenda at every turn, the amount of which is certainly no secret and cannot be overstated. There is no doubt a good portion of Obama’s tenure was thwarted by the opposition.

But Obama is certainly not blameless. If one wants to change how business is done in Washington, they have to first know how business is done in Washington, hardly something somebody who’d only been there for four years would understand. In Obama’s first two years, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. During that time, the president failed to gain meaningful relationships in Congress and was even dismissive of those in the chamber. He could’ve spent more time during those years hammering at the nation’s fiscal stress, an area that would’ve gotten him more bipartisan support. Instead, he turned to healthcare reform — his biggest legislative achievement that passed without a single Republican vote, gave rise to the Tea Party and is well on its way to the chopping block even before he walks out the door.

Sure, you can blame Congress. But Obama is actually the bigger one at fault because he set the standard for himself. He was going to be the one to bring lawmakers and the country together, he promised. And he truly believed it — something he acknowledged he wasn’t able to do in his 2016 State of the Union address — saying “the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.”

But what Obama managed to do was expand merely the difference in ideologies that the two major parties represent. And the election to replace him exposed that expansion. Obama leaves office with both parties having revolutionaries from within, whether they be far-right Republicans or progressive Democrats, who have gained support and now power. And then there is a large portion of the electorate who is so frustrated with Washington that they don’t even want to be aligned with either party or either wing of those parties. Most obviously, the election of Donald Trump is itself the symbol of Obama’s divided America.

Yes, a lot has changed under Barack Obama, just not the change we wanted. Washington is now wealthier, more isolated from the people, more partisan and more of an absolute mess. And while it’s unfair for us to say the president is responsible for all of that, it’s not. While Obama was clearly naive to believe someone who hadn’t even completed one term as a U.S. senator could go to Washington and change it all, we were naive enough to believe that he could actually do it. So, shame on him. But mainly, shame on us.

And now that eight years of Barack Obama are in their final days, we have to ask ourselves this: If Obama couldn’t change Washington the way we want it to, why do we think Donald Trump will?

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

It’s Time for a New Normal In Albany

New York Legislature

Members of the New York state Assembly meet in the Assembly Chamber at the Capitol on the opening day of the legislative session in Albany.

When the now-convicted former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was on trial for corruption charges about a year ago, we heard repeatedly from his counsel that the lawmaker’s actions in question were completely “legal and normal.”

Weeks later, state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was also on trial for corruption — the fifth majority leader in a row to be indicted on criminal activity — along with his son. Adam Skelos’ attorney cried that the government was trying to “turn a very normal father-son relationship into a crime.”

Now, Silver was convicted of routing state money to an oncologist, who then referred patients to a law firm from which he received referral fees. He also negotiated state tax breaks for a real estate company, which then steered business to a law firm, from which he also received referral fees. In all, he pocketed nearly $5.3 million. Skelos used his power to get his 33-year-old son a $78,000-a-year job to which he sometimes would just not show up for, and when asked to actually come to work, the young Skelos told his boss, “talk to me like that again and I’m going to smash your f—ing head in.”

Now, tell me if you think that’s normal.

Until a pension forfeiture amendment is added to the state constitution, both Silver and Skelos will receive nearly $100,000 in yearly pensions, courtesy of taxpayers, while they are serving their respective 12 and 5-year terms in federal prison.

Tell me if you think that’s normal.

Silver spent more campaign money than any of the other 200 plus state lawmakers running for re-election in 2016. But he wasn’t up for re-election. He instead used that campaign money to pay for $3 million in legal fees since his arrest. Skelos used around $1 million of his campaign funds for the same purpose.

Tell me if you think that’s normal.

Along with Silver and Skelos, 30 state lawmakers have been prosecuted since 2000 and provisions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and other state agencies have been continuously under investigation for illegal activity.

Tell me if you think that’s normal.

Tell me if you think it’s normal that the third highest paid Legislature in the nation can’t address those issues but requested a pay raise upwards of 47 percent because they thought they deserved it, and even requested a special session between Dec. 25 and 31 to negotiate that raise. Since a pay raise is extremely unpopular with New Yorkers, it would’ve been much more convenient to get it approved once elections were over and when New Yorkers were distracted by mistletoe and candy canes. Even after Cuomo extended an olive branch — offering the pay raise if the Legislature seriously discussed ethics reform and Uber — lawmakers didn’t budge.

As of right now, conspiracy, fraud, bribery, extortion, money laundering, abuse of power and using campaign bank accounts for trips to Cancun and Acapulco (as Sen. Gregory R. Ball of New York City did) all remain the norm in Albany. While that itself is extremely frightening, what is more so is that our representatives have barely put in any effort to stop it. More frightening still is when such “legal and normal” activity continues to not just be ignored, but defended.

Back in June, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. McDonnell was found guilty in 2014 of illegally receiving gifts, money and loans from the CEO of a Virginia-based company in exchange for official acts seen as favorable to the CEO and his business, similar “normal” activity New York officials have been convicted of. After the ruling, Sheldon Silver’s attorneys said in a joint statement that the court’s decision “makes clear that federal government has gone too far in prosecuting state officials for conduct that is part of the everyday functioning of those in elected office. The McDonnell decision will be central to Mr. Silver’s appeal.”

That one decision not only endangers New York’s progress of bringing crooked New York politicians to justice, but it essentially dictates that corruption is okay — because it’s normal. By the way, both Silver and Skelos, who were supposed to begin their sentences in August, remain free pending their appeals.

Enough is enough. As a new session in the Capitol gets underway, it is imperative that this one actually produce definitive, effective and long-lasting measures combating corruption in this state. It’s time for a new normal in Albany.

It’s time to put a stop to the endless charades of promising New Yorkers real ethics reform and not delivering. It’s time to close the LLC loophole, which allows big donors and special interests to circumvent the state’s campaign finance limits and funnel millions of dollars to the candidates of their choice. It’s time to finish what was started on withholding pensions from disgraced state politicians. It’s time to limit lawmakers’ outside income to 15 percent of their annual salary they get from the Legislature, a measure Syracuse legislators Sen. John DeFrancisco and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli both oppose. And then, create an independent ethics panel that can investigate those suspected of wrongdoing — preferably a panel that Cuomo isn’t allowed to shut down.

And in the wake of the arrest of nine men connected to the governor’s economic revitalization effort this fall, reforming economic development contract awards should also be included in the mix.

Will these measures forever end corruption in New York? Of course not. But they will help reverse the narrative that actions like using donations to a non-profit to pay for over $37,000 in personal expenses (as ex-Sen. Efraín González Jr. did), is just business as usual in Albany.

What’s supposed to be normal is using campaign funds for, you know, campaigns. What’s supposed to be normal is using public office as a way to serve the people, not the individual.

Above all, what’s supposed to be normal is representatives who adhere to the very constituents who elected them. Well, 97 percent of New York voters say it’s important that the state pass new laws to combat corruption in the government. It’s time to start listening to them.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

And the Presidential Party Pattern Continues


President Barack Obama is seen with former presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office shortly before taking office.

Columnist Megan McArdle wrote back in July of 2013, just seven months into President Obama’s second term, that there was a 70 percent chance that Republicans would control the White House and both houses of Congress in 2017, a claim she acknowledged received a lot of pushback. Her argument for such a prediction is simple. She says “mostly, the White House flips back and forth like a metronome.”

Now, in two weeks when Donald Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, he will be the latest edition to a political pattern that has inherited the White House for much of the last half century. Incumbent presidents have been very good at winning. But incumbent parties have not.

President Obama had hoped he would be watching Hillary Clinton be sworn in on Jan. 20, and put in an enormous amount of effort to make that happen. But Obama now joins George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as the third consecutive two-term president to see a member of the opposite party succeed him. The metronome has swung back again.

While Trump’s victory was vastly unexpected by just about every model possible, history shows us that we shouldn’t have been so surprised. It is extremely difficult for Republicans and Democrats to hold onto the White House for more than eight years.

Indeed, such a political feat has only been done three times in the last 100 years. Republican Warren G. Harding was elected in 1920 to lead a nation weary of World War I and eager to focus on domestic issues. Thanks to the economic boom of the Roaring 20s, Republicans were able to keep the presidency for 12 years. Then the Great Depression ushered in Franklin Roosevelt and his unprecedented four victorious elections, followed by Harry Truman winning a term of his own after Roosevelt’s death, locking Republicans out of the White House for two whole decades. Then after Ronald Reagan’s landslide victories in 1980 and 1984, George H.W. Bush was able to decisively win Reagan’s third term in 1988.

The elder Bush also stands out because he was the first sitting vice president to win an election since Martin Van Buren in 1836. We’d like to think of the vice presidency as a convenient stepping stone to the presidency, but it’s actually a hurdle very few have been able to overcome. Vice President Richard Nixon was bested by John F. Kennedy in 1960, but then won eight years later by defeating then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey. And hanging chads and butterfly ballots kept Al Gore from returning to the White House with a promotion in 2000. We can only speculate the success of Joe Biden, who danced around the idea of running in 2016 for some time.

Hillary Clinton wasn’t Obama’s vice president, but she was clearly his choice for an heir apparent. She had been his secretary of state, pledged to preserve and build on the work he had started and was a noble of the Democratic Party. In many ways, Clinton was the 2016 version George H.W. Bush in 1988 — both had been former primary rivals of the presidents they went on to serve under, then hoped to use their respective president’s high popularity as a way to follow them into office.

What makes Clinton’s situation unique is something rarely talked about during the campaign. Obama had a 56 percent approval rating in the months leading up to the election — much higher than the last few presidents at their time of leaving office. But then there’s this: Of all the presidents since 1950 who were able to win two terms, only one received fewer votes in his second election than in his first — Barack Obama. The same Barack Obama who predicted he would’ve beaten Trump had he been on the ballot. There are many — like self-described liberal Politico contributing editor Bill Scher — who have strong doubts about such a bold statement.

Now, the evidence for these presidential patterns have endless factors, be it wars, economic conditions, scandals, unpopular candidates and so on. But fundamentally, Americans are simply impatient. Americans have a short attention span. Americans just simply get tired after eight years. When they feel one party isn’t working, they’ll vote the other one into power. “Change” was a word on Obama’s lectern in 2008. It’s also a word Trump used repeatedly during his stump speeches. American frustrations with their government always makes for “change elections.” Clearly, the last three presidents have struggled to find just the right message to convince enough people to keep their party in power.

And when it comes to an election about change, Trump is about as radical a change as can be measured, while Clinton represented the exact opposite — not just because she served in the Obama White House, but because she’s part of a political dynasty. And people have a strong distaste for dynasties after a certain point. After two Bushes and one Clinton have reigned for 20 of the last 28 years, another four or possibly eight with another Clinton was evidently something the country wasn’t interested in.

The seesawing of our national politics probably won’t change anytime soon either. The country is too divided for that. Any talk of electoral dominance over the last decade — and there’s been a lot — has been purely fantasy. In 2004, George W. Bush was re-elected and Karl Rove predicted Republicans had built a “permanent majority.” Two years later, they lost control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Two years after that, they lost the White House to Obama and John Judis of The New Republic proclaimed we were now “America the liberal.” Two years after that, the Tea Party rose and Republicans won back the House. Two years after that, Obama was safety re-elected. Two years after that, Republicans took control of the Senate and win their largest majority in Congress in nearly a century. Two years after that, those majorities hold and Trump will take the helm on Jan. 20.

People change. Parties change. Conditions of the country change. And no matter how much a power a party has or how popular a president is, that metronome is bound to swing back, sooner or later.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at

Thruway Signs Point State To a Better Economy


If you’re like me, a regular driver of the New York State Thruway, you’ve probably noticed a whole bunch of those new blue signs, brightly touting the state’s many attractions under the infamous catchphrase and logo “I Love N.Y.” But as it turns out, the federal government isn’t exactly sharing the love.

Officials say the signs don’t comply with federal rules because they are too big and contain too much information, which can lead to distracted driving and cause accidents. The state Department of Transportation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have long defended the signs in a quarrel that goes back three years. National Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau met last week in Washington with state DOT commissioner and former Syracuse mayor Matt Driscoll to come up with a solution, though neither side seemed eager to compromise. The state claims it didn’t commit any wrongdoing and says the signs are helpful and beneficial, while the feds may threaten to cut nearly $1 billion in federal highway funding from New York if the signs don’t take their own exit.

Obviously, the state cannot afford to lose funding. But let’s be frank here. New York state is not only a tourism hot spot overall, but tourism is the life and blood of the upstate economy. Last year, the industry produced $102 billion in revenue for the state. And different regions have their own tourism trademarks, whether it be camping and snowmobiling in the Adirondacks or wine country in the Finger Lakes. And attention-grabbing signs on roads that dissect the state from the shore of Lake Erie to the Long Island Sound are going to be valuable in promoting what each region has to offer.

Usually once a month, I drive a 100-mile stretch of the thruway between Syracuse and Amsterdam and see a number of the blue signs along the way, most notably the one for the Lock E-13 Living History Rest Area by Canajoharie, which just opened in July. The site is one of the state’s “Path Through History” exhibits, this one particularly featuring the important history of the Mohawk Valley and how the Erie Canal transformed the state forever. The area also has a “Taste NY” store which sells food and beverages all crafted by state companies and residents. I plan on making a stop there on my next trip through. Similarly, there is the Old Erie Canal Heritage Park in Port Byron that was just completed this fall that can be accessed from the thruway.

The signs offer an incentive to both out-of-state drivers and lifelong residents like myself to explore the many treasures upstate New York has. There are many small communities that have suffered from economic distress for some time and rely heavily on visitors coming to spend their money. The signs provide the means for that to happen. And ever since visiting western states years ago where signs providing directions to campgrounds and attractions were severely lacking, I’ve come to appreciate the plentiful ones that are scattered along roadsides across the state courtesy of my tax money. To have these ones taken down would not only damage inroads to helping the state’s economy, but it would completely waste the $1.76 million of taxpayer money it took to manufacture and put up the more than 500 signs.

Seeing how a good portion of the signs were actually made in Arkansas, which is another discussion in itself, taking the signs away is not something the citizens of this state deserve. That just makes it more imperative that Albany and Washington come to a sound resolution that involves keeping them up in some fashion. But the state was told back in 2013 that the signs were illegal, and, according to documents obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, brushed off a formal proposal from the federal government to work together on creating promotion signs that were both informative and legally binding. The New York Times likened the state’s decision to go ahead with the project anyway to “a recalcitrant teenager.” And sometimes, teenagers need a stern talking to.

It is my hope that the signs remain standing and do so within federal limitations. It is also my hope that in an age where cell phones and GPS devices are regular passengers in the car, that the federal government puts up as big a fight about distracted driving because of those devices as they do about signs with Milton Glaser’s famous logo on them.

Signs say a lot. And what these thruway signs tell us is this: With its population decreasing and fiscal stress prolific, both residents and tourists can be reassured that the upstate region is worth stopping in and staying once in a while, not just a place for passing through.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at