President-elect's 'Thank-you' Tours Provide Tipoff
Trump’s ‘Big Lies’ Offer Preview into his Presidency
BY ROBERT REICH
Donald Trump has just finished the last of his nine post-election “thank-you tour” rallies. Why did he do them? And why is he planning further rallies after he becomes president?
One clue is that Trump conducted them only in the states he won. And most attendees appear to have voted for him – overwhelmingly white, and many wearing Trump hats and T-shirts. When warm-up speakers asked how many had previously attended a Trump rally, most hands went up.
A second clue is that rather than urge followers to bury the hatchet, Trump wound them up. “It’s a movement,” he said in Mobile, Ala., playfully telling the crowd that in the run-up to the election, “You people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall?’ ‘We want the wall!’ Screaming, ‘Prison!’ ‘Prison!’ ‘Lock her up!’ I mean, you were going crazy. You were nasty and mean and vicious.” He called his followers “wild beasts.”
A third clue: Rather than shift from campaigning to governing, Trump’s post-election rallies were almost identical to the rallies he held as a candidate – the same format, identical pledges (“We will build a great wall!”), and same condemnations of the “dishonest” media.
And rather than use the rallies to forgive those who criticized him during the campaign, he’s settling scores – criticizing politicians who opposed his candidacy, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich; blasting media personalities who predicted he would lose, such as CNN’s John King; and mocking his former opponents.
Trump vows to continue these rallies after he becomes president. As he told the crowd in Mobile, “They’re saying, ‘As president, he shouldn’t be doing rallies.’ But I think we should, right? We’ve done everything else the opposite. This is the way you get an honest word out.”
“Get an honest word out?” There’s the real tipoff.
Like his nonstop tweets, Trump’s purpose in holding these rallies is to connect directly with a large and enthusiastic base who will believe what he says – and thereby reject facts from mainstream media, policy analysts, government agencies that collect data, and the scientific community.
During his “thank-you tour,” Trump repeatedly claimed, for example, that the murder rate in the United States is the highest it’s been in 45 years. In fact, it’s near a 50-year low, according to the FBI.
He also repeatedly said he won the election by a “landslide,” when in fact he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes – more than five times Al Gore’s margin over George W. Bush in 2000.
And he repeatedly asserted that the election was marred by “massive voting fraud,” when in fact there has been no evidence of fraud at all.
A democracy depends on truth. Trump’s claims that the murder rate is soaring may elicit support for policies such as harsher policing and sentencing – the opposite of what we need. His assertions that he won by a landslide may give him a mandate he doesn’t deserve. His claims of “massive voter fraud” could legitimize efforts to suppress votes through rigid ID and other requirements.
If repeatedly told Muslims are the enemy, the public may support efforts to monitor them and their places of worship inside America, or even to confine them. If told that the tide of undocumented immigrants is rising (in fact, it’s been falling), the public could get behind draconian policies to keep them out.
If told to ignore scientific evidence of climate change, the public may reject efforts to reverse it. If told to disregard CIA reports of Russian tampering with our elections, the public could become less vigilant about future tampering.
In short, the rallies and tweets give Trump an unprecedented platform for telling Big Lies without fear of contradiction. It’s no coincidence that Trump continues to denigrate the news media, and hasn’t held a news conference since July.
A president intent on developing a base of enthusiastic supporters who believe bald-faced lies poses a clear threat to American democracy. This is how tyranny begins.
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. He has written 14 books, including his most recent, “Saving Capitalism.” He was co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “Inequality for All.”
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