As Evan and I feared, Trump is proving to be a disastrous president who has accomplished little beyond passing vague executive orders that either do nothing or are deemed illegal by federal courts, embarrass the United States abroad, and fill D.C. with the rancor of political scandal. However, the most damaging thing he has done (and continues to do) is undermine the legitimate democratic voice of the American people. While this dynamic is nothing new, it has become increasingly deleterious under Trump.
Perhaps the best example of this is Trump’s continuous assertion that every unkind article published about him is fake news. Like most of his utterances, this is complete nonsense. Trump is not adored by those in the media, and there is definitely a large amount of damaging information coming out about him. But that is the role of the media! And, even if journalists have sometimes made mistakes and have had to update pieces, there is simply no evidence that any mainstream media publications in the United States are consistently and deliberately lying in their coverage of Trump. Moreover, given Trump’s record as an inveterate liar and conspiracy theorist, his charges of fake news are more than a bit hypocritical.
Unfortunately, the fake news claims are but one of a number of initiatives undertaken by Trump and his administration to undermine the voices of those who disagree with him. For example, he has asserted (with zero evidence) that 3 to 5 million illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton. This number is convenient, as it’s just enough to suggest that Trump won the popular vote as well as the Electoral College, thus undermining Democrats’ claims that he lacks a strong mandate. The key word here is convenient because, as mentioned above, there is not a shred of evidence that this many illegal votes were cast. This claim is, therefore, nothing more than another lie by Trump to discredit people who legitimately disagree with him.
His response to the growing anger in GOP Town Hall meetings was that “[angry constituents] are not the Republican people that our representatives represent.” This kind of assertion is very dangerous, as it suggests that Trump and his allies in Congress can ignore anyone who didn’t vote for them. Obviously Republicans work toward GOP goals, but partisan politicians still have a responsibility to care about their constituents and support them in whatever way they can. This is true irrespective of the party affiliation of the people they are elected to serve. Trump’s statement on the GOP Town Halls becomes even more problematic when paired with other assertions from him and other Republicans that any and all opposition groups are simply “paid protestors.” This is not only non-falsifiable but, at least in my experience, also utterly wrong. As someone who lives in D.C. – one of the most liberal cities in the United States – I know many people who have participated in protests against Trump. Not a single one of them was paid (and, as college students, I’m sure they would have been more than happy to take money from any organizers handing it out).
What’s so frustrating about all of these assertions is that they are completely without merit. And frankly, one could just as easily make these claims about GOP actions under Obama: The Tea Party were all just paid protestors. They didn’t even believe what they were saying, and they just protested for the money. They shouldn’t have even been allowed to voice their concerns at Democratic Town Halls because they were Republicans, not the kind of people Democrats represent. And, by the way, Obama won by even bigger margins than we thought because all of McCain’s votes were illegally organized by the Koch brothers who imported illegals to undermine Obama.
My hypothetical narrative is completely insane, obviously, but it’s literally what Trump is saying, just in reverse. And yes, I know that many Democrats underestimated the Tea Party and discredited their concerns. But, I might point out, they paid the price politically in 2010. That’s why I’m so baffled that the GOP is confused by the outrage on the Left. It is exactly what they did only a few years before. The Democrats’ response back then was bad, but at least they didn’t have Obama asserting that everyone who disagreed with him was an insincere professional protestor who had no convictions other than the desire to earn a quick buck.
Trump is incredibly controversial. Thus, it’s really not that hard to believe that people legitimately don’t like him. That he and other Republicans can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that people are sincerely concerned by what Trump is doing suggests a complete lack of self-awareness and empathy, and it also suggests that American civil society is weaker than previously assumed (and, for the record, it was never assumed to be that strong in the first place). When anyone who disagrees with the President of the United States becomes labeled as nothing more than a traitorous paid protestor who lacks the right to speak with their legislators because “they’re not the ones the GOP represents,” the United States has failed. Again, I am more than happy to concede that the Democrats fell prey to many of these problems during their rise to power in 2009, but even they did not go this far. Given that Republicans know what this kind of treatment is like, one would think they’d be able to empathize and learn from the Democrats’ mistakes. So far, though, that does not appear to be the case. And that means that in a few years, the “fake protestors” and “illegal voters” will kick them out of office, and they will have only further exacerbated the divisions tearing apart the United States.