Nowadays, truth is stranger than fiction. At least in the movie, people had to believe the story
You may remember the 1997 movie “Wag the Dog” in which an American president tries to cover up a sex scandal just before he faces re-election by fabricating a military crisis. The movie was hilarious, but seemed a bit far-fetched.
Now, we have a President who is known for his sex scandals. His party faces a midterm election, and to convince people to vote for them, the President has manufactured a military crisis. Unlike the small one in the movie, however, this imaginary crisis involves 15,000 military personnel deployed to the border at a cost of around $200 million. Truly, if the Trump presidency were a movie, nobody would believe it.
The crisis is just about as fake as the one shown in the movie. A bunch of poor refugees without shoes, mostly children, are 800 miles away from the U.S. border walking toward us. They’re a threat? If that is the case, then the U.S. is a lot weaker than I thought.
In the movie, there was a theme that was returned to repeatedly. Just as it seems the lies will be exposed, the director hired to help with the job played by Dustin Hoffman comes up with a new twist to distract folks. In short, according to the movie, the story had to maintain its credibility.
Now, though, credibility is unnecessary. Trump and his supporters claim that terrorists and criminals are in the caravan, that the refugees all have leprosy, and that there is nothing in place to stop them. As all of this is shown to be untrue, Trump and his supporters just shrug their shoulders and move on to the next lie.
How can he get away with repeatedly lying? His lying affects two different groups of people in different ways. For most people — remember that about sixty percent of the country disapproves of him and always has — the lying is a big problem. His character is abhorrent, and we are embarrassed that he is the leader of our country.
But for about 40 percent of the population, the lying doesn’t matter. This is his base. To them, when he lies it doesn’t matter because he is exaggerating a larger truth that they believe. He lies about a caravan of refugees from Latin America bringing drugs, violence and pestilence to us? The specific lie doesn’t matter. This group believes our nation is under threat from immigrants with brown skin. As a result, even though his specific facts might be incorrect, he is reflecting their world view.
And to them, having someone reflect their world view is refreshing, even energizing. This is the group the Republican party have taken advantage of, lying to them during the election season, then turning their backs on them once in office. Racism and fear of the other were constant themes among Republicans dating back to Richard Nixon. Trump just states it more explicitly.
But when they got into office, it always seemed that these elected officials became part of the problem in Washington. Despite a policy agenda that is traditional Republican — take care of the rich while demonizing the poor, minorities and unions — and a historically corrupt administration, he has not backed off in his rhetoric since coming into office. That is actually what they like about him.
His supporters feel that the country they know has been under assault. No longer is it socially acceptable to simply say “Merry Christmas,” you are supposed to consider other people’s beliefs. No longer is it OK to discriminate against gay people, brown people and immigrants — in other words, those who are not Christian and white — instead we need to make a place for all people. No longer is it OK to pretend that everyone was the same, and those who don’t fit in should remain invisible. This change in our societal expectations is what scares Trump supporters.
They hated Barack Obama because he was the ultimate personification of these societal changes. If you had asked me just a few years ago if we would have a black President, or gay marriage, or the mainstreaming of other traditionally oppressed groups, I would have said you were crazy. But then all this happened. Barack Obama had little to nothing to do with the legalization of gay marriage. But he was the representation of the changing culture.
No President can stop these cultural changes. The fact that his policies are broadly unpopular is irrelevant to his supporters. Instead, they like the fact that after having had to look at the personification of the changing society for eight years, they now get to look at the personification of the reaction: an ignorant, misogynistic, racist who is unapologetic. They feel that for once, they no longer need to censor what they say or apologize for their beliefs. That is what they like about him.
That’s why they love him as he gets more outrageous. It does not matter that he lies or offends people. In fact, that is what they like about him. If he can say what he wants and get away with it, so can they, no matter who it offends.
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