“The Truth About Donald Trump’s Lies” (Jamelle Bouie, Slate) is one of the few articles on the President-elect’s relationship with truthfulness that breaks out of the humdrum, placing its author outside the corps of earnest scolds.
The Slate author, Jamelle Bouie, begins by explaining the use of prevarication by fascists, as explained by Hannah Arendt. Then he expands on Arendt’s analysis:
Put in plain language, fascists didn’t lie to obscure the truth; they lied to signal what would eventually become truth. Or to use Arendt’s analogy, “It is as though one were to debate with a potential murderer as to whether his future victim were dead or alive, completely forgetting that man can kill and that the murderer, by killing the person in question, could promptly provide proof of the correctness of this statement.”
Americans aren’t living under a fascist government, but they have elected a president with an unusual relationship to the truth. Even when they lie, most politicians care about the truth. It’s why they lie, why they try not to get caught. But Donald Trump doesn’t appear to see a difference between truth and lies. He lies as a matter of habit about matters large and small. His lies are often obvious: easily disproved by available information. For a strong example, look to Twitter. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” tweeted the president-elect on Monday. This charge is groundless. False. Frankfurtian bullshit. There is no evidence of “illegal voting,” no evidence of the mass fraud necessary to give Hillary Clinton a significant lead in the national popular vote.
But, following Arendt, debunking Trump’s lie as a lie misses the point of his lying. Since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck key provisions from the Voting Rights Act, GOP lawmakers in states across the country have pushed and pursued strict laws for voter identification and voter suppression. Republicans in Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin (among others) have tried to burden voters with cumbersome requirements, convoluted procedures, closed precincts, and reduced time for voting. In each case, Republicans began their push with broad accusations of voter fraud influenced by figures like conservative activist Hans von Spakovsky, a key architect of ID laws and other methods of voter suppression. “We call this restoring confidence in government,” said Thom Tillis, then-speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, in support of a strict voter ID law. “There is some evidence of voter fraud, but that’s not the primary reason or doing this. There are a lot of people who are just concerned with the potential risk of fraud.”
The author, of course, doesn’t take kindly to the idea of tightening up voting requirements. And here we get to the problem with his take on Trump. After an initial foray into the interesting, he reverts to the usual partisan knee-jerkery.
He calls the Democratic Party’s approach to voting rights “broad and inclusive.” Yikes. This is part of the modern Uplift approach to democracy, the trivial “rock the vote” nonsense, wherein we encourage everyone, including those who know next to nothing about politics (much less history, economics, sociology, war, taxation, etc.) to vote, which seems hardly prudent.
Making it “easier” to vote just increases the number of marginal, uninformed or uninspired voters. Precisely the kind that can be moved by unreflective, uncomplicated political pitches.
The Democratic Party, in pushing for this kind of voting, suggests, to me, that it relies upon uninformed and easily-manipulated voters.
But of course the elites defend it in “racial” terms. Which is a fine example of the party’s over-reliance upon identity politics to solidify subsidy-based allegiance.
The Slate author thus derails his essay by turning it into yet another case of special pleading, preaching to the Choir Ideological.
Apparently, Democrats just cannot help themselves.
The essay’s title focus, however, retains interest, no matter how botched. Certainly it is the case that no matter how one feels about voting rights, the President-elect has never been known as a stalwart for the truth. Mr. Bouie gives us at least some small purchase on Trump’s modus operandi. Though it run off the rails by not looking into the basic notion — and questioning whether Hillary Clinton’s long string of whoppers might not also fall into the same not-quite-familiar fascist mode — in greater depth.
That’s up to the reader, I guess.
Just not the marginal voter . . . from whom nothing insightful about politics should be expected.