Trump sup­port­ers back him, re­gard­less of his lies

The Record (Troy, NY) - - OPINION - Email Cyn­thia Tucker at cyn­thia@cyn­ Cyn­thia Tucker As I See It

For all the news me­dia’s right­ful fo­cus on the klep­toc­racy, ly­ing, ma­nip­u­la­tion and mal­prac­tice that un­der­gird the pres­i­dency of Don­ald J. Trump, there is some­thing even more trou­bling about this ad­min­is­tra­tion: its sup­port­ers. No mat­ter what out­ra­geous false­hood he tweets, no mat­ter what ethical stan­dard he evis­cer­ates, no mat­ter what demo­cratic prin­ci­ple he vi­o­lates, Trump’s sup­port­ers stand by loy­ally.

They dis­miss the ev­i­dence pre­sented by ex­perts from right and left. They ac­cept this hour’s lie, which con­tra­dicts the lie of the hour be­fore. They even deny their own val­ues in or­der to cling to Trump’s here­sies.

The pres­i­dent’s lat­est big lie is the claim that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama wire­tapped Trump Tower to spy on his cam­paign. Trump and his sur­ro­gates have re­peated var­i­ous ver­sions of that dan­ger­ous false­hood for sev­eral days now, with no ev­i­dence what­so­ever to back it up. But ac­cord­ing to a poll by Ras­mussen Re­ports, Repub­li­can vot­ers tend to be­lieve Trump.

His­to­ri­ans tell us that this is the way that dic­ta­tor­ships be­gin. A to­tal­i­tar­ian makes war on truth, per­verts the as­sump­tions that un­der­lie crit­i­cal think­ing and masters the dark art of pro­pa­ganda. Of course, he (or she) must have a will­ing au­di­ence, a sub­stan­tial fol­low­ing that wants to be­lieve.

And Trump does. A mid-Fe­bru­ary Gallup poll found that 81 per­cent of Repub­li­cans be­lieve the pres­i­dent to be “hon­est and trust­wor­thy.” By then, Trump had al­ready re­peated -- sev­eral times -an eas­ily re­futed con­tention that his in­au­gu­ra­tion crowds were the big­gest in Amer­i­can his­tory. All you’d have to do is look at the pho­tos posted by sev­eral news or­ga­ni­za­tions, which placed pic­tures from the Na­tional Mall dur­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s in­au­gu­ral fes­tiv­i­ties side by side with Trump’s.

By the time of the poll, the pres­i­dent had also re­peated -sev­eral times -- the out­ra­geous claim that Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pop­u­lar-vote vic­tory was the re­sult of mas­sive voter fraud, an out­break of il­le­gal bal­lot­ing that in­volved as many as 5 mil­lion peo­ple. Many of his sur­ro­gates have re­peated that mon­strous fab­ri­ca­tion. Where is the ma­jor in­ves­tiga­tive com­mis­sion that press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said would be led by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence? It has not ma­te­ri­al­ized, and that doesn’t seem to mat­ter.

Talk about defin­ing de­viancy down. Trump has al­ready vi­o­lated many of the norms of the Amer­i­can pres­i­dency and chal­lenged demo­cratic val­ues. For ex­am­ple, he de­nounces judges, who

rep­re­sent an equal branch of gov­ern­ment. Where are all the tea-partiers who claim to re­vere the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion? Why are they still staunchly sup­port­ing Trump?

Then there’s the mat­ter of the pres­i­dent’s deeply trou­bling re­la­tion­ship with Vladimir Putin, the au­to­cratic leader of Rus­sia, one of this na­tion’s most trou­ble­some ri­vals. It’s clear that Rus­sia in­ter­vened in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, likely the worst scan­dal in the his­tory of U.S. pol­i­tics.

And ev­i­dence con­tin­ues to mount that Trump has a murky and mys­te­ri­ous web of con­nec­tions to Rus­sians in Putin’s cir­cle. Back dur­ing the sum­mer, Trump re­port­edly in­structed his sur­ro­gates to re­move lan­guage from the Repub­li­can Party plat­form that sup­ported Ukraine in its fight against Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists. Back­ing Rus­sia as it tries to take over Ukraine con­tra­dicts years of U.S. for­eign pol­icy dic­tates from Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike.

Not that Trump vot­ers care. For all the hand­wring­ing over the eco­nomic fears of work­ing­class

white vot­ers, their pop­ulism has a deep un­der­cur­rent of white Chris­tian na­tion­al­ism.

They are not ter­ri­bly in­ter­ested in the tenets of a plu­ral­is­tic democ­racy or in a broad eco­nomic jus­tice. Rather, they are swayed by the clar­ion call of a man who has promised to re­store white Chris­tian America to dom­i­nance. Their am­biva­lence to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion -- its sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, its pro­tec­tion of reli­gious mi­nori­ties, its sup­port for dis­sent -- poses the great­est threat to the repub­lic since the Civil War.

After days of ret­i­cence, Repub­li­can lead­ers fi­nally found the guts to re­fute Trump’s lie about wire­taps. But they may lose that new­found courage if their con­stituents con­tinue to back Trump.

It’s no won­der that Ge­orge Or­well’s “1984,” the chilling vi­sion of a dystopian, to­tal­i­tar­ian fu­ture where in­con­ve­nient facts are sim­ply deleted and rewrit­ten, is sud­denly pop­u­lar again, rock­et­ing to the top of best-seller lists. It’s un­com­fort­ably fa­mil­iar.

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