We are burdened by a president for whom lying comes as naturally as breathing. He calls the press “the enemy of the people” when they repeat his statements and report his actions. Any difference of opinion is condemned. Any opposition is labeled as treasonous, as hate for our country.
His supporters claim with a straight face that he does not lie but President Trump has made 12,019 false or misleading claims over 928 days, according to the Washington Post on Aug. 12. Lying is a tool in his arsenal to confuse and distort and obscure reality. His supporters follow his lead without questioning. They are told that the press has an agenda geared toward the destruction of the republic. The president sees the world as another chapter in his personal reality TV show with him as the star.
There is a reason why the First Amendment is placed so prominently. The free press’ duty and obligation are to challenge the establishment and seek the truth. Fact-checking and diligent review leave little room for the bias the media is accused of harboring.
The organizational memory at the core of our nation, accrued over two and a half centuries of governing and compromise and struggle and trial and error is ridiculed as the “deep state.” The sense of a communal identity and faith in democracy are being undermined. Institutions of democracy like the free press, security organizations and an independent judiciary are routinely demonized and ridiculed.
Instead of a leader who speaks for his country, ours works to divide or deny those he is sworn to represent. Instead of time-tested allies, he admires tyrants and murderers. His professed concern for the common man is proven false by placing power in the hands of industry insiders and crony capitalists intent on enriching the elite instead of promoting the common good. The greatest tax relief goes to those who need it least. His political party, until recently in sole control of the federal government, ignores their constitutional obligation as a check on executive power in order to serve their corporate donors.
The Republican Party has been preparing this path for a long time. Instead of compromise and progress, they pay token service to labor and the military while tending to the rich. Instead of working to stop Russian transgressions, they ignore and cover up a direct attack on our elections. Imagining voting fraud where none exists, they work to help their cause by denying the right to vote by closing polling places in poor neighborhoods and shortening voting hours.
Their willingness to follow an administration into war without cause or impose an economic solution with a proven bad track record, or to ignore scientific evidence of climate catastrophe is no deterrent to their believers. They take as a matter of faith that their beliefs outweigh evidence. The repetition of false statements and slurs against opponents to confuse issues and sway the easily convinced has made hard facts a debatable quantity. Spinning conspiracy theories intended to provoke irrational fears and encourage an “us versus them” mindset is now standard policy. The Republican Party has morphed into a group so convinced of their own righteousness that they will not listen to science or public opinion and certainly not the other side of the aisle. Instead of the big tent, they used to brag about they have evolved into a party with few women, or people of color, or diversity of opinion. What the rest of the world acknowledges, they refuse to see.
Trump’s simplistic strategy of promoting fear and division, and clouding facts with the repetition of lies, is reminiscent of Soviet practices. Labeling whole groups of people as something to be feared and ridiculed belies a mindset based on prejudices and privileges. Government based on enlightened, rational thought and measurable progress is forsaken to serve an egomaniacal leader, one who is extremely skilled as an entertainer and salesman but who makes his supporters feel important. This cult damages the fabric of the nation by enabling a person who, when contradicted and corrected, is unable to admit a mistake. When confronted with even a small misstep, he would rather lie than admit it.
Democracy depends on defining an issue and coming to an agreement then working together to strike compromises. Trump and the Republicans have forged divisive and hardened positions in order to stir emotions and discourage different ideas. The current Republican Party and its leaders support groupthink and rich donors.