With Fresh Eyes: Falsehoods as Political Strategy


by Rich Nelson

“The current president is unique in his indifference to reality.” So says New York Times reporter David Leonhardt, whose research found that Trump told more than three times as many falsehoods during the first ten months of his presidency as President Obama did during his entire eight-year tenure. Leonhardt stated, “Trump is trying to make truth irrelevant. It is  damaging to democracy, and it is core to his political strategy.”  Trump, when cornered by his own fabrications, attempts to discredit those who challenge him with the truth. The most flagrant example, perhaps, has been his relentless attacks on the free press.  “The most dishonest man on the political stage is constantly attacking the press for being dishonest,” says Allen Frances, author of the new book Twilight of American Sanity. The media as the “enemy of the American people” has been a central theme of Trump’s rants, and it represents a key piece of his political intentions.

The unscripted remarks of this president have shed light on the true character of the man – impulsive, erratic, fraudulent. He recently re-ignited assertions of massive voter fraud by stating “In many cases, like California, the same person votes many times. They always say ‘oh, it’s a conspiracy theory’ – not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.” Again, his impulsive and presumptuous nature blinds him to the facts.  After these remarks, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University responded, “Study after study has shown that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and voter impersonation is nearly non-existent.”

An indifference to reality was also on display during Trump’s most recent, rehashed comments on immigration. “You know, they had the caravan of thousands of people coming up from Honduras. We don’t know if they’re murderers, if they’re killers. This journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump stated during an April 5th meeting. He continued, “And these ICE guys are so much tougher than them. And they’re grabbing them by the necks and throwing them into the paddy-wagons. It’s like it’s a war.”

According to Factcheck.org, the caravan from Honduras of no more than 1500 people made it to southern Mexico, 900 miles south of the U.S. border, and Mexican officials report that most of them had plans to stay in Mexico. Trump’s claims of widespread rape within that caravan have been unsubstantiated. The number of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally has declined by more than one million since 2007. And, according to the Pew Research Center, data continues to show more Mexicans returning to Mexico than coming to this country. This represents a 46-year low in illegal immigration, which doesn’t equate to the claims by the president of an escalating and dire threat. 

A sound, respectful discussion on immigration policy is warranted. It should, however, be grounded in factual analysis – not spontaneous and false rhetoric which plays to people’s base fears. Fearmongering has been a constant in Trump’s repertoire, with repeat performances dating back to the “they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists” comments in his announcement of his presidential candidacy in 2015.  

An “Us vs. Them” approach to policy is a divisive tool that is detrimental to the American ideals of inclusiveness and opportunity. The harsh rhetoric exploited to demonize “others”  has been part of the political strategy the president continues to utilize to project fear and a sense of victimhood among his most fervent supporters.  The changing demographics in this country are frightening to some, but such trends should instead be looked upon as an opportunity to understand and appreciate diverse perspectives on life. Travel expert Rick Steves implores us to open ourselves to new experiences and ideas. “When I travel,” Steves says, “I meet a greater variety of interesting people in two months than I do in an entire year back home. I view each of these encounters as loaded with potential to teach me about people and places so different from my hometown world.” You don’t need to travel far from home to embrace that message. 

Contact Rich at richmskgn@gmail.com