I have been talking a lot about truth and what I have called (as have others) the death of truth. I could not have had better examples than what the president of the United States said to the American people after the 2020 election. He demonstrated that he was, as Bill Maher kept saying, “a whiny little bitch.”
Did you see Stephen Colbert after the presidential election? It was surprising in more ways than one.
As Stephen Colbert explained, before all the votes had been counted, “President Trump came into the White House briefing room and lied for 15 minutes.” He said nonsensical stuff about dumping ballots and corrupt officials and secret Democratic counting cabals.
The Washington Post was not as coarse, but just as firm: The Washington Post called it “a speech of historic dishonesty” and “a litany of falsehoods and grievances, with some baseless conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.”
Trump said many things, always, entirely without evidence. I heard Trump tell the American people that he had been “robbed of victory.” He said he was the winner of the election since he had more “legal votes” than Biden. He said he had been “cheated out of victory.” Trump said the “mail-in-ballots are a corrupt system.” even though he had used it in the past. He said, “They’re trying to rig an election.” Many of us tend to dismiss the rants of president Trump. After all they seem too absurd for a rational person to seriously consider.
The problem is that words matter and this is particularly important when the speaker is the president of the United States. Millions of people actually believe what he says, as absurd as that sounds. They do. When Trump says the election is fraudulent his supporters tend to think that must be true and get enraged. That can be dangerous. We have seen this over and over again, whether it is the Proud Boys or the Boogaloo nuts from Michigan. Trump drives them to action and often those actions are dangerous. Trump often treats this as a joke but it is not a joke. It is serious business.
When I heard these strong statements I wondered what would his rabid supporters do? He has plenty of those. I heard and saw one on TV the next day. The supporter approached an election official who was explaining to a Nevada TV interviewer how careful he and others were being about counting the ballots and rejecting the bad ballots. They were interrupted by one of those rabid Trump supporters.
Colbert’s interpreted the incident this way, according to Emily Yahr,
“Colbert concluded by playing the viral video of Joe Gloria, the registrar of voters in Clark County, Nev., whose televised briefing this week was interrupted by a man shouting about how the “Biden crime family is stealing the election.” Gloria waited patiently until the man left and calmly asked, “Where were we?”
“He let that guy spew his crazy till he was tired and then watched him walk away. And then Joe Gloria took a deep breath and did his job. Which is what we should all do. Just stay cool,” Colbert said, and then segued into his regularly scheduled monologue.”
The election poll workers were still counting on Friday. Interestingly Trump wanted the election officials to stop counting in Pennsylvania where he was ahead but keep counting in Nevada and Arizona where he was behind. This is not quite as nonsensical as it sounds for every state has different rules. Yet we all know what Trump meant. He was not making a nuanced point. He never does. Bill Maher commented on that this way:
“If your position is that they have to stop counting ballots in the state where you’re ahead, or its fraud, and they have to keep counting in the state where you’re behind or its fraud, you have to consider maybe its you who’s the fraud.”
Of course, as always when Trump makes outrageous statements he did so without any evidence to support the claim. He doesn’t need evidence for he knows most of his supporters will believe him without evidence no matter what he says. So why bother? His supporters, and there are millions of them, believe him entirely without evidence just like Christians believe Jesus. Evidence is not important when you talk about religious belief. Faith is important.
All of this had an important consequence however. I will get to that in the next few posts.