I know that no one is surprised when people like me say that Donald Trump is a liar, or worse, a bullshitter who doesn’t even care if statements are true or false. I think even his most devoted fans understand that. I don’t think anyone is fooled about that. So what really interests me is this: why do so many people, including Americans and Canadians and people around the world, not care about him telling lies? Why do they not care about the truth? This is what interests me for it will be important even if Donald Trump loses the election to be president for the United States in 2020.
I think that is an important question. Too many people focus on Donald Trump’s lies, which after awhile are not that interesting. The real question is why does he elicit such loyal followers that they just don’t care?
Peter Baker said this about Trump in a recent New York Times article:
“Born amid made-up crowd size claims and “alternative facts,” the Trump presidency has been a factory of falsehood from the start, churning out distortions, conspiracy theories and brazen lies at an assembly-line pace that has challenged fact-checkers and defied historical analogy.”
Even though I think that is obviously true, and would be admitted by his followers, or should I say believers, they still choose his side. A recent Newsweek poll found that 54% of Americans now think it has become more acceptable that people in politics lie. Only 13 % think it is less acceptable. The importance of truth itself is eroding and I would submit that is very important.
To give just one example, because more people don’t care if what Trump is telling them is true, they believe him no matter what. So for Covid-19 advice they follow Trump’s advice even though they don’t care if what he is saying is true or not! Is it any surprise that there is now about 1 new cases of Covid-19 in the US every second?
Not caring about truth has consequences and they are important, but they are real. A Harvard Professor Nancy L. Rosenblum, and her co-author Russell Muirhead wrote a book called A Lot of People are Saying after an expression Trump often uses. In the book they said truth may not matter even if Trump is gone. As they said, “that may not change even if Mr. Trump leaves office after one term because he proved the advantages of truth-bending politics and helped build up an information infrastructure where reality is like an à la carte menu from which Americans can pick their favorite variant.”
Here is my theory. People don’t care if what Trump says is true or not because he is one of the leaders of their tribe. They identify with Trump. They are on the same team. That is all that matters, not whether what he says is true or not. This is a religious attitude. That is how true believers react to their leaders. Such an attitude has deadly consequences. Those consequences will be with us for a long time after Trump is no longer president. Many of us will pay the price.