Like millions of Americans, I’ve watched with complete dread and disbelief the tragically ridiculous lows to which the 2016 presidential elections have descended, particularly from Donald Trump. The ridiculousness would be funny if it wasn’t so damn scary. If it wasn’t so damn dangerous.
Take, for example, Trump’s quip to Hilary Clinton that she will be put in jail if he is elected.
Or his refusal to guarantee a smooth post-election transition of power.
Or his on-going sexist, racist, xenophobic comments, and actions.
Or his refusal to bargain in good-faith with the workers at his Los Vegas hotel.
Or his dangerously naïve and ill-informed international policy perspectives.
Or… the list could go on and on and on.
In Trump’s twisted imagination, conspiratorial forces are aligned against him, working to ensure his defeat, malign his character, and discredit his brand. It’s symptomatic of a particular characteristic at the heart of Trump and the Republican Party’s campaign – their assault on government and the petrification of fact-free politics.
Arguably, Trump is the embodiment of a decades-long, deliberate Republican campaign to fundamentally break government, to dismantle public sector jobs, and destroy social safety-net programs at the local, regional and national level.
We see the fruits of this strategy in the election of anti-public school activists to school boards, who, once in office, campaign to transfer funds from public schools into private, for profit charter schools.
We see it in the form of anti-tax state representatives and senators who argue for even more tax breaks for large corporations, while S-CHIP, Medicaid/Medicare, unemployment insurance, social security, and numerous other programs end up on the chopping block.
We see this campaign take the form of Tea Party leaders in Congress stubbornly shutting down government, refusing to perform the most basic duties of elected office, and thereby prolonging the worst economic recession since the Great Depression – causing millions of Americans undue hardship and financial stress.
It isn’t rocket science. The Republican Party has waged a decades-long campaign to insert anti-government, largely incompetent people into all levels of the national polity. Trump is simply a by-product of this campaign.
Additionally, the cultivation and petrifaction of a fact-free politics has created a national republican constituency base committed to articulating, believing in, and fighting for the absence of evidence and the denial of science.
We have entered a period in American politics where facts seem to no longer matter for millions of people – an inheritance bequeathed to us by FOX News, Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart, and their ilk.
In short, Donald Trump’s inability to acknowledge facts, even when presented with documented evidence, is unfortunately the symptom, not the cause, of a larger illness in our body politic. Irrational fear, the denial of fact, belief in conspiracies, and uncontrollable anger have become the hallmarks of politics for far too many.
Unfortunately – after being lied to for so long, after being whipped into a crazed frenzy – a large part of our democracy no longer differentiates fact from fiction, no longer trusts what their eyes and ears tell them, no longer believe what is plain as day.
This is the danger Donald Trump’s candidacy really personifies. Like a cancer, the flight from fact has the potential to metastasize, to grow, harden, and get worse.
Undoubtedly, the earth isn’t flat. Global warming isn’t a hoax. And there isn’t a war being waged against Christmas. No matter how many times the NRA and their bought-and-paid-for politicians claim it, government is not trying to take away your guns. And LGBTQ folks aren’t trying the peek-in on your private parts while you do your bathroom business.
While ours aren’t the Dark Ages, a Trump presidency could arguably make it something worse. It is quite possible historians will look back on November 8, 2016 as a defining moment in U.S. and world history. For unlike the Dark Ages, today’s world leaders have at their fingertips the ability to destroy all of mankind. Nuclear annihilation and climate catastrophe are very real possibilities.
If you read nothing else between now and November 8, please remember this:
These are dangerous times. Our government is under assault and our politics are increasingly freed from the pesky constraints of facts. A Trump presidency will only make things worse.