Donald Trump and the Spectacle of Lying
Donald Trump and the Spectacle of Lying
By Lee A. Daniels, George Curry Media Columnist
During his march to the Republican Party nomination, Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded that for the time being all Muslims should be barred from entering the U.S., making it a cornerstone of his campaign.
Then, last week, he declared that idea was “just a suggestion.”
Which statement was the lie?
Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump displayed a firm allegiance to the Republican orthodoxy against raising the federal minimum wage. Until this month, when he said he favors raising the federal minimum wage.
Which declaration was the lie?
In the midst of the primary campaign, Trump promised to follow political tradition and release his tax re-turns as the other candidates have done since the early 1970s. Last week, he said he wouldn’t do so before the November election because a federal audit of his taxes wouldn’t be finished that soon. Besides, Trump added, “there’s nothing to learn from them,” and he further said he didn’t think voters were really interested in examining the documents.
Which of those statements is a lie?
Get the picture? Those looking to pin down what Donald Trump actually believes about the issues facing the American nation – and coherent prescriptions for bettering American society are missing the point. The Republican presidential nominee has only one standard: Lie continually. Lie about anything. Lie about everything.
Earlier this month, the “Fact Checker” columnist of the Washington Post noted that 26 separate times thus far during his campaign the column has given Trump “Four Pinocchios” for statements he’s made – meaning that Trump was brazenly lying when he made them.
That number represented 70 percent of the times the Fact Checker column reviewed Trump claims.
The article said that “most politicians will drop a talking point if it gets labeled with ‘Four Pinocchios’ by the Fact Checker or ‘Pants on Fire’ by PolitiFact (another widely-respected journalistic fact-checking operation). No one wants to be tagged a liar or misinformed, and we’ve found most politicians are interested in getting the facts straight ….”
“But,” the passage continues, “… Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. He appears to care little about the facts; his staff does not even bother to respond to fact-checking inquiries.”
In fact, Trump’s lies on the campaign trail have been so numerous that in December Politifact gave his entire campaign its annual Lie of the Year designation – because “it was hard to single one (lie) out from the others. So we have rolled them into one big trophy.”
True, Trump’s propensity for lying likely stems from his own overweening insecurity and vanity. But, of course, there are broader forces at work in his defeating the now-laughable “deep bench” of Republican current and former officeholders the GOP once boasted of. Political scholar Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute told Politifact that among them are the public’s desensitization to inflammatory rhetoric, the right-wing’s assault on science and expertise, and the increasing influence of partisan media in American society during the last three decades. Those negative forces have intensified during the last eight years, as the conservative movement encouraged a politicized race war against President Obama.
“Trump came into an environment that was ripe for bombastic, inflammatory, outrageous statements without having to suffer the consequences,” Ornstein said.
There’s plenty of evidence that Trump’s supporters are not bothered but thrilled by his inconsistent and incoherent policy positions, and his outright lies. On the one hand, they regard his outwitting the media and both parties as their revenge against the “elite.” And they cheer his win-by-any-means-necessary attitude because they, like him, want to dominate everyone else and they don’t care how they get to do that.
Trump has shown the world how willing a segment of White conservatives is to shed all the “values” they’ve been pretending they exalt if it’ll restore the one thing they hold most dear: White conservative rule. That’s why more and more overt White racist groups and individuals have openly endorsed Trump (endorsements that he – “wink-wink” — disavows). There hasn’t been such a prominent, openly racist candidate running for president since Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace in 1968 and1972.
That reference is important for two reasons. One is because Trump is using the same strategy – bigotry and the Big Lie – that enabled legalized racism to operate so brazenly in the South and less so in the North for nearly a century after the Civil War.
The second is that, ironically, Trump’s supporters are so blinded by their bigotry they can’t see they’re being suckered by Trump, the “elite” demagogue, in the same way the Southern segregationist politicians of old fooled that region’s white populace about the racial realities of America’s future – and the now-hated GOP establishment fooled White conservatives these last eight years by promising to defeat President Obama.
Which brings to mind a bit of old folk wisdom: You can fool some of the people all of the time.
Lee A. Daniels, a former reporter for The Washington Post and the New York Times, is also a former editor of The National Urban League’s The State of Black America. He is a keynote speaker and author whose books include Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He is writing a book on the Obama years and the 2016 election. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org