Will Trump’s Lies Affect the 2020 Election?

Back in 2018, researchers at Ohio State University made a disturbing connection. They found “fake news” may have helped elect Donald Trump.

The scientists surveyed 585 voters who voted for Pres. Obama in 2012. But 23% of these voters didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In fact, 10% actually voted for Donald Trump.

According to the Washington Post, the survey included three fake news stories that circulated during the 2016 campaign. They included claims that…

  • Clinton okayed sales of weapons to Islamic terrorists
  • Clinton was seriously ill during the campaign
  • The Pope had endorsed Trump’s candidacy.

Anywhere from 8% – 20% of those who voted for Obama believed – at least partly – one or more of these stories. Clinton won the votes of 89% of those who didn’tbuy the stories. But only 45% of those who believed at least one of them.

These results can’t prove causality. But they’re awfully suggestive. What’s worse, we appear poised to face the same situation in 2020.

The Truth Is in Trouble

Pew Research issued a report in 2017 that paints a dark future for the truth.

The report quotes Wired magazine’s co-founder, Kevin Kelly. “For every fact there is a counterfact,” Kelly said, “and all these counterfacts and facts look identical online, which is confusing to most people.”

Among the challenges noted in the report: Our “inbred preference for comfort and convenience.” And the tendency to accept any claims that reinforce beliefs we already hold.

That is, given a fact and a “counterfact,” our natural choice will be the one that better fits our world view.

As one respondent wrote, “There is no market for the truth. The public isn’t motivated to seek out verified, vetted information. They are happy hearing what confirms their views.”

“The crisis we face about ‘truth’ and reliable facts,” wrote Jamais Cascio of the Institute for the Future, “is predicated less on the ability to get people to believe the *wrong* thing, as it is on the ability to get people to *doubt* the right thing. The success of Donald Trump will be a flaming signal that this strategy works…”

Based on Trump’s 18,000+ presidential lies – and the GOP’s Twitter feed – expect the Internet to be awash in “alternative facts” and misleading stories right through the 2020 election. And beyond.

Facing this future, is there anything we can do? Yes. And it’s absurdly simple.

Fighting Back Against Trump’s Attack

A new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) lists Trump’s many attacks on legitimate media:

  • His campaign has filed lawsuits against major media companies
  • He’s suggested limiting press freedoms by loosening libel laws
  • Customs and Border Protection harassment of journalists at border crossings
  • Calling for boycotts of media outlets critical of his administration
  • Cutting off normal lines of communication – such as press briefings
  • And his endless cries of “fake news” to discredit legitimate news stories

So how do we fight this? Simple: Support responsible journalism. Subscribe to a legitimate newspaper. Visit reliable ad-supported news sites. Become a member of your local Public Broadcasting radio or TV station. Support independent journalism outlets such as Mother Jones.

Trump can only succeed if we fail to act. Supporting those willing to call him out is the easiest – and probably most effective – way to do that.

And, quite possibly, the best way to prevent Trump’s onslaught of lies and fake news from swaying another election.

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Sources:

Blake, A., “A new study suggests fake news might have won Donald Trump the 2016 election,” The Washington Post. Apr 3, 2018.

“The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online,” Pew Research. Oct 19, 2017.

Farhl, P., “New study says Trump has ‘dangerously undermined truth’ with attacks on news media,” The Washington Post. Apr 16, 2020.

A Crash Trump Can’t Blame on Obama

For over three years, Donald Trump has used President Obama as an excuse for most of his administration’s challenges. If that doesn’t work, he falls back on “deep state.”

But he’s now met his match. There’s no way Trump can link the coronavirus outbreak to Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, or some mysterious deep state conspiracy. And he’s floundering.

In the last five days, the Dow has shed more than 12% of its value. It’s down 10% for the month… and as much as 13% for the year.

Here’s the thing: Trump didn’t allow for any excuses when Obama was in charge… so why should we let him offer any for himself? He’s taken credit for every rise in the market. So, he should take a hit for every drop.

What’s good for the goose…

He’s So Ready to Claim the Glory, But…

“Dow goes from 18,589 on November 9, 2016, to 25,075 today,” Trump tweeted in November 2016, “for a new all-time Record. Jumped 1000 points in last 5 weeks, Record fastest 1000 point move in history. This is all about the Make America Great Again agenda! Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. Six trillion dollars in value created!”

So, if his “leadership” caused a $6 trillion rise in the stock market over 2 years… shouldn’t he get “credit” for a drop three times as great in 2020?

There’s another glitch, too. The Dow rose 26% over two years while Trump was in office. But it rose 33% over two years under Obama. And Politifact reports the market jumped 61% over 10 months under Obama. A feat Trump’s tenure hasn’t even come close to matching.

Politifact points out Bill Clinton saw a 227% rise in the Dow over his 8 years in office. Even Ronald Reagan couldn’t match those numbers. In fact, the Obama administration saw the Dow jump 14% more than Reagan’s.

Donald Trump’s numbers beat the two Bush’s… but he lags behind Reagan, Obama, and Clinton.

And his handling of the coronavirus outbreak doesn’t look like a winning strategy, either.

The Man with No Clue

The new coronavirus kills at a rate about 20x higher than the flu. But Trump seemed unaware of that at press conferences.

Then he put V.P. Mike Pence in charge of response. The same man multiple news outlets pointed out was criticized for his handling of the HIV outbreak.

Pence hesitated to authorize a needle exchange program. And then resorted to prayer.

Experts suggest many lives could have been saved if Pence had acted quickly… and sensibly.

Even more exasperating is the report form the NYTimes that Trump appointed Pence, because – in Trump’s own words – he didn’t have anything else to do.

Meanwhile, Trump has suggested – with no evidence – that warm weather would kill the virus. And that we’re well prepared… despite having already gutted the CDC’s ability to respond.

Yet – somehow – we all know this will all be Obama’s fault. Or Hillary’s. Or anyone’s but Trump’s. Because he can’t accept any of the consequences of his decisions.

But the American people will know. Trump rolled the dice with the CDC,  slashing funding for a critical government department.

And he came up snake eyes.

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Sources:

MarketWatch. Feb 28. 2020.

DeCambre, M. and Wiltermuth, J., “Stock market rout continues, on track for worst weekly slide since 2008 as coronavirus stokes volatility,” MarketWatch. Feb 28. 2020.

Jacobson, L., “How Donald Trump, Barack Obama compare on the stock market,” Politifact. Jan 8, 2018

GOP Leaders: The Constitution Is Now Optional

With a year left in his second term, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Garland is well-respected by both the Left and the Right. His qualifications are clear. And his record is spotless. His nomination should have breezed through the Senate. Instead, it never came up for a vote.

Instead, the Senate majority leader – Mitch McConnell – refused to allow Garland even an interview. Let alone a vote. Although the next election was a year away, McConnell insisted voters should have a voice in the decision.

Of course, McConnell quickly cited the Constitution’s “voters’ voice” rule in Article… Um. No. Hold on a minute. There is no “voters’ voice” reference regarding the confirmation of judges. The concept is just something McConnell invented to prevent President Obama from naming a Supreme Court justice.

Welcome to the Republicans’ world… where following the Constitution is strictly optional.

Beware the Phony Emoluments Clause

For more than 200 years, politicians on both sides of the aisle took the Constitution to be the law of the land. Apparently, they were mistaken.

Donald Trump has declared the Emoluments Clause “phony” and impeachment “a hoax” and a “witch hunt.”

His press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham – along with other Republicans – have termed the inquiry a “kangaroo court.” As has Trump.

Never mind the process is enshrined in the Constitution. And the GOP used it with glee to attack Bill Clinton. Suddenly, aspects of the Constitution have become “phony.”

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration – with the explicit support of its Congressional allies – has sought to hinder or delegitimize every aspect of the inquiry.

Claiming non-existent powers to prevent Congressional testimony. Pointing to positive economic numbers to “prove” the inquiry is a sham. Even attacking a decorated military officer – and Trump aide – when his honest testimony wasn’t favorable to Trump.

All while trying to gloss over…

  • How Trump’s businesses have raked in millions from foreign governments. Such as a lobbyist for Saudi interests rented hundreds of nights in Trump’s Washington hotel.
  • Trump sticking taxpayers with over $100 million in bills for stays at his own properties.
  • Trump trying to schedule next year’s G7 summit at one of his own golf properties.

All of which Trump’s Congressional defenders appear more than willing to forgive. Especially since Trump is luring Senatorial support with cash.

Cash “Trumps” the Constitution

Donald Trump speaks one language… and one language only. Cash.

Wealth is Trump’s one measure of worth. And spreading it to gain influence his one measure of power.

Which helps explain why Trump is flexing his fundraising muscles to help vulnerable Republican senators. As long as they stand behind him.

If the House votes to impeach, the trial will be held in the Senate. And Trump desperately wants a favorable majority in the Senate.

One way to ensure that is to keep his supporters in office. So, Trump has been “co-fundraising” with GOP Senators whose seats are in peril. At least, those who are reliably in his corner.

Sometime critics – like Maine’s Susan Collins – have been frozen out.

Stand behind Trump, and his influence with mega-donors is yours to exploit. Cross him, and you have to rely on actual voter support to retain your seat.

Politico points out how backing Trump has helped some of the GOP’s most vulnerable senators. “The donors listen to the president,” former George W. Bush aide Scott Jennings, “and he has the most capacity to energize small-dollar contributions by making the case that he needs a Senate majority to be successful.”

In other words, Trump is buying support in the Senate. If he can ensure a senatorial majority in 2020… any impeachment trial could be doomed to failure. Not based on facts, but on cronyism.

For all practical intents and purposes, Trump is attempting to buy support in the Senate.

Call me crazy – and I’m sure the GOP will – but I’m pretty sure that’s not in the Constitution.

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Easley, J., “Trump Calls The Constitution Phony While Comparing Himself To George Washington,” PoliticusUSA.com. Oct 21, 2019.

Wagner, J. “Live updates: White House expects impeachment, press secretary says; Trump calls Pelosi and Schiff ‘corrupt politicians’,” Washington Post. Nov 1, 2019.

Isenstadt, A., “Trump lures GOP senators on impeachment with cold cash,” Politico.com. Oct 31, 2019.

The Real Meaning of “POTUS”

“@BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic.”

  • Donald Trump, Aug 15, 2011

Donald Trump never had a problem criticizing President Obama’s golf schedule. In fact, he posted 27 tweets about Obama golfing before the 2016 election.

For example, in 2016, he tweeted, “While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like our government! Airports a total disaster!”

And in Dec 2014, he wrote, “Obama has admitted that he spends his mornings watching @ESPN. Then he plays golf, fundraises & grants amnesty to illegals.”

Another Trump tweet from 2014 reads, “We pay for Obama’s travel so he can fundraise millions so Democrats can run on lies. Then we pay for his golf.”

Clearly, this is a man who believes the Commander-in-Chief has no business playing golf. The same man who cancelled a trip to Poland because of Hurricane Dorian… and spent the next two days playing golf.

Um… Commit hypocrisy much?

POTUS = Putter of the United States

As we’ve noted before, sources suggest Trump has spent about 20% of his days in office golfing. This from a candidate who said, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Yet he’s found plenty of time to play golf. More than once a week.

Even worse, when Trump plays golf, it costs. And costs big. An Air Force report from 2017 said one of Trump’s golf trips to Mar-a-Lago cost $142,380 per hour for the use of Air Force One.

Then add in millions of dollars for overnight stays for his entourage and security detail… plus the golf carts the Secret Service has to rent, etc. Considering most of these golfing holidays take place at Trump properties… this is a windfall for the president’s company.

So, the Putter of the United States – the guy who would have no time to play golf – is getting rich off America’s taxpayers.

Politifact reports Trump golfed 50% more by mid-2018 than Obama had during the same period of his first term. And Trump hasn’t slowed down any since then, either.

NBC News found Trump visited one of his golf properties on 150 days during his first year in office. That’s more than 40% of that year… spent at – if not on – one of his own golf courses.

This might have been forgivable… except Trump constantly criticized Obama for golfing. And claimed he wouldn’t have time to golf, if elected.

Yet he’s golfed one out of every five days he’s been in office. Including in times of national emergency… like Hurricane Dorian.

The Right was quick to side with Trump against Obama’s “golf habit.” Where are their voices now that Trump has eclipsed his own anti-Obama standard?

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Kirk, J., “The 27 times Donald Trump tweeted about Barack Obama playing golf too much,” SBNation(dot)com. Feb 3, 2018.

Kessler, G. “Fact check: Have U.S. taxpayers spent $72 million on Trump’s golf outings?” The Washington Post. Jul 27, 2018.

Graves, A., et al, “Who plays more golf: Donald Trump or Barack Obama?” Politifact(dot)com. May 18, 2018

Johnstone, L., “Tracking President Trump’s Visits to Trump Properties,” NBC News. Dec 29, 2017.