Editor’s Note: This has been a really interesting election season, and the primaries haven’t even started yet. For months, we’ve all been hearing about how Donald Trump is ready to plateau, and his campaign is just a mirage. I think it’s time we all realized that, not only could he be the Republican nominee (he really is the guy most in tune with what conservatives believe), he could actually be President Trump in 2017. If that sounds far-fetched, I think you’re giving the American people too much credit for good sense.
— George Costanza
the end of their Comedy Central runs, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were
considered America’s “most trusted” news sources by many Americans. During
his tenure, Colbert coined a term that defines our political campaigns: “truthiness.”
This idiom denotes those things one feels are (or should be) true, but for which
there’s no data, evidence, proof or even logic. In theology, it would be
termed an “article of faith”; skeptics call it “magical
Trump debuted his personal brand of truthiness by opining, without evidence,
that President Obama was foreign-born — hence, constitutionally unqualified
for office. Trump refused to apologize for his birtherism, even when Obama
produced his birth certificate. Because he never admits error, The Donald went
with what has become his standard practice — doubling down on the
constantly predict Trump will eventually say something so silly, bigoted,
hateful or dishonest that his campaign will implode. But this won’t happen,
because his base is so enamored with the truthiness of his rants — for
example, they share his horror that Obama was twice freely elected. Trump’s
positions aren’t out of the GOP mainstream — they represent the positions
much of his party either believes or wishes were true.
he’s not technically a politician, The Donald is given credit for being the only candidate with integrity, so it doesn’t matter that he says
things that are irrational or simply content-free. Nor does it matter that this
lifelong Democrat has flip-flopped 180 degrees on many issues to endear himself
with a conservative base.
initially called invading Afghanistan a mistake; now he doesn’t. He was once
pro-choice; he’s now pro-life. He was for gun control; now he’s “a big
Second Amendment guy.” He’s backed Hillary Clinton, and, with characteristic
hyperbole, he now calls her the worst secretary of state in history. Bottom
line: Trump doesn’t need to believe what he’s saying to keep his followers
happy; it’s enough that what he says sounds truthy.
burst onto the scene in 2015 with his comments on immigration. The issue itself
was the epitome of truthiness. He’s calling it a crisis at a time when net
immigration has been declining for years (by 2014, more Mexicans were leaving
the U.S. than arriving). But many Americans fear the crisis is accelerating, and
maybe most Mexicans really are rapists and drug dealers anyway. So now we’re hoping
Mexico will pay for the wall, and that rounding up and deporting 11 million
illegals will be a fiscally profitable enterprise.
Schmidt, who managed the McCain campaign, has called our time “a post-fact
era,” and GOP strategist Karl Rove asserts that “Trump’s substance is
completely void.” Trump promises to repeal Obamacare, but when asked what
he’d replace it with, the best he could come up with was “something
great.” Trump isn’t good at follow-up questions. Luckily, his fans seldom
ask follow-up questions and don’t care about his answers.
no footage exists, Trump claims to have seen “thousands” of Muslims in
Jersey City celebrating 9/11. N.J. governor Chris Christie denies it happened,
and the reporter of the article Trump cited (Fred Siegel of the New
York Post) claims The Donald has conflated West Bank Palestinians with a
handful of American Muslims. Because it’s what he wants to be true, Trump has
doubled down on this illusory assertion as well, claiming his “memory is
perfect” — more magical thinking.
the terrorist attack by a pro-life killer in Colorado, members of the Republican
press willing to report the story began painting Robert Dear as a lone nut, who
wasn’t pro-life, and hadn’t been influenced by the right-wing media, conservative
Christianity or the GOP presidential candidates’ slanders against Planned
Parenthood. Fox News dismissed the effects of the pro-life hoax that aired
doctored videos, despite the terrorist’s own statement that there would be
“no more baby parts.”
the same time, in the social media (e.g., Facebook), the Left began posting
memes on every wacky fundamentalist/evangelical who’d ever proclaimed that
those killed by pro-life terrorists have gotten what they deserved. Like the
Muslims who celebrated 9/11, these Christians probably represent a small
minority; however, the Left’s truthiness was the belief that millions of
evangelicals wish that supporters of reproductive choice could be murdered.
Truthiness isn’t solely the province of the Right.
truthiness makes the bigots happy. When The Donald suggested a travel ban on
Muslims (which even Dick Cheney opposes), what made it truthy was that it
sounded proactive; however, passports don’t have the bearer’s religion on
them, so the whole exercise is merely Trumpian hot air. And, as a member of a
religious minority here in the U.S. (i.e., I’m not a Christian), I’m a bit
frightened by this sort of slippery slope.
most of us are reluctant to stand up to the playground bully. Particularly
revolting was Trump’s vile impersonation of a handicapped New York Times reporter, which his followers cheered as a thumb in
the eye of political correctness. Far too many of us applaud simple nastiness
when it comes disguised as honesty and political courage.
I thought the 2016 GOP candidate would be Marco Rubio, but I’ve since changed
my mind. It’s likely Trump will be at the top of the ticket, and there’s a
good chance he’ll be president. We Americans are suckers for truthiness.
bit of truthiness I accepted for months was that the best thing about Trump was
that he won’t take contributions from the fat cats in the business and
political establishment. There’s something a little distasteful about
billionaires like the loathsome Sheldon Adelson buying politicians, as happened
with Newt Gingrich in 2012. (In 2016, Adelson hopes to be Marco Rubio’s
contrast, Trump insists that he can’t be bought. But think about it for a
minute. Trump was born a millionaire, and is now a stereotypical billionaire
fat cat himself. Wouldn’t electing him just be handing the Oval Office
to one more entitled special interest, and merely cutting out the middleman? In
what universe is that an improvement?
2020, a lot of us may be wishing Jon Stewart was back on the air amusing us, because four
years of a Trump administration doesn’t sound like a laughing matter.
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