There was a brief moment in our recent, modern history, wherein the arguably most contested elected president of all-time vowed to mend a divided nation and push forward in the effort to “make America great again”.
That moment was in the early-morning hours of November 9, 2016, when then president-elect Donald J. Trump – who ran his campaign on divisive themes of fear, distrust and nationalism – gave his bleary-eyed victory speech to a shocked nation. His tone – usually bombastically juvenile – seemed almost tranquilly promising.
“Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division, [to] have to get together,” he said. “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. It is time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be President for all of Americans, and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”
In the aftermath and up until his inauguration just under a week ago, his actual win has suffered a PR debacle of historic proportions – with finalized results showing that Trump actually lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by roughly 3 million votes (thank you, antiquated Electoral College). Anti-Trump activists, progressive-leaning pundits and statistic-driven journalists have all hammered this point home, citing the new Commander-in-Chief’s lack of mandate and its polar contradiction to the post-election popularity of former double-term President Barack Obama.
But if you recall – since the 2008 election – Republican politicians and conservative news outlets have successfully spun the fictional tale of voter fraud; discrediting landslide Democratic victories by relaying the lie that illegal and invalid votes and voting procedures were the cause of the Republican party’s seemingly temporary demise.
Even lumping this erroneous concept into his own declarations of a “rigged election,” President Trump stoked the unsilent majority flames by insinuating that “their country” was under threat of being stolen from them – again.
At one rally, Trump claimed “that ‘people that died 10 years ago’ and undocumented immigrants are casting votes in elections, even though local jurisdictions are supposed to regularly update their voter rolls and only U.S. citizens can register to vote in presidential elections. At other rallies, Trump has told his supporters to go to polling locations on Election Day and watch for fraud, which some voting rights advocates worry could lead to voter intimidation, especially in states that allow the open carry of firearms.” – Washington Post, October 18, 2016.
But since he officially won the election anyway (thank you again, Electoral College) and has taken his seat in the Oval Office, Trump’s designations of rampant voter fraud seemed to have died down – until now.
Yesterday evening, in a show of egomaniacal bravado and equipped with a healthy serving of inferiority, Trump told a bipartisan group of leaders and lawmakers on Capitol Hill that he lost the popular vote by a margin somewhere in the 3 to 5 million range due primarily to “illegals” voting for Clinton. This is not necessarily a new claim, however, as he similarly remarked via Twitter back in November that, despite official findings, he actually won the popular vote in a “landslide”, insisting of course “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
This, he claimed, is the primary reason for the numbers’ official findings being not in his favor. Nevermind, of course, that there is absolutely no evidence to support this wild accusation despite his apparent fixation other than, of course, his administration’s persistent reliance on “alternative facts.”
If you recall, this is the same group that over the past few days have ardently and misleadingly insisted that Trump’s inauguration was the “most watched inaugural” for no other reason than a metaphorical pissing contest with the fact-checking media. And this claim, of course, is on the heels of the recent Women’s March on Washington that worldwide marked the largest anti-Presidential inauguration rally in American history and a tremendous embarrassment for the former reality-TV star, as its numbers dwarfed his inauguration exponentially.
So, what of this? Should not such unsubstantiated and even downright disproven “alternate facts” belay the new president’s credibility? The correct answer is, “Of course, stupid.” Unfortunately, however, since the rise of Donald J. Trump at the dawn of the election season nearly 2 years ago, we have been co-existing in a post-fact society where truth and accountability are overshadowed by dog-whistle style propaganda; which perhaps changes the answer’s inflection to something more akin to: “Of course. Stupid.”
The problem is that nobody supporting this new President despite his abhorrence for record-based facts is going to care whether or not he said something untrue. He used the right tone, the right terms; “shooting from the hip” while disparaging “illegals” as the real perpetrators against American democracy. This is the language and the rhetoric to which his legions have responded and continue to do so. I challenge any reader here to simply peruse any number of right-leaning news sites, blogs or networks and not find a multitude of instances where his audience downplays or outright ignores the man’s fallacies.
And why wouldn’t they? When Kellyanne Conway – campaign manager and now adviser to the president – insisted that Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s lies to the press were simply “alternative facts, did the administration quaver in its resolve? Did its rhetoric die down, caught in a red-handed fib?
No, and it won’t have to. Not while the new president’s reactionist base continues to hear his volume and not his actual words.
This is not a group with an adherence to truth or the political curiosity to delve into matters beyond the talking points that they want to hear and see.
Trump bashes illegals? Yes! Conway calls out the “biased media”? Yes! Repeal Obamacare without a plan in place to cover 20 million Americans? Um…sure, okay, that’s cool I guess!
It fits their mental mold, wherein the “adulting” is left to the white men in charge so that the rest of us do not need to meddle in issues like justice, transparency and political nefariousness.
The danger here is that this trend will undoubtedly continue for the next four years and perhaps (probably) beyond. With the Trump team already taking credit for the upsides of a successful Obama economy, and with his constituency lauding his first few and incredibly damaging executive orders, it is hard to imagine any situation or revelation whose absolute truth would be his downfall.