Waking Up to the Con Job

With the news that Donald Trump will nominate ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, it is clear that the president-elect continues to feed the swamp rather than drain it. But that’s not the message his supporters are hearing. Here is how Kellyanne Conway described the nominee on Fox News:

Conway isn’t lying. Tillerson is not a typical politician. But to get a sense of who he is, it’s helpful to read what Steve Coll has written about him. Coll literally wrote the book about ExxonMobil. It’s titled, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. Here’s how he recently summarized what he learned:

The main themes of “Private Empire” involved the ways that ExxonMobil saw itself as an independent, transnational corporate sovereign in the world, a power independent of the American government, one devoted firmly to shareholder interests and possessed of its own foreign policy…

The goal of ExxonMobil’s independent foreign policy has been to promote a world that is good for oil and gas production. Because oil projects require huge amounts of capital and only pay off fully over decades, Tillerson has favored doing business in countries that offer political stability, even if this stability was achieved through authoritarian rule.

That article appears in the New Yorker, so Fox News viewers aren’t likely to read it. Instead, they hear things like this from Eric Bolling:

Yes, it’s true. Bolling says that the guy who just nominated Tillerson to be Sec. of State – as well as the head of Goldman Sachs to be the director of his National Economic Council and a former Goldman partner to be Treasury Secretary – is the “populist” who is going to take it to the corporate CEO’s and banksters to extinguish the globalist threat. Rich Lowry echoes that theme in an article titled, “Trump is Turning the GOP Into the Workers’ Party.” While we can all find that laughable, for the people who watch Fox News and read the NY Post, that is the reality they are being fed.

This is the same message that Trump is sending out via his so-called “thank you” tour. Amidst questions about nominating so many millionaires and billionaires to his cabinet, he brushes off the critique by simply saying that he wants people who have made a fortune and goes on to articulate exactly the same lies he told to get elected.

It is becoming clear that this is the kind of thing we can expect from a Trump presidency. While his administration embraces the same-old Republican policies of exploding the federal deficit with tax cuts, dismantling the safety net, discarding regulations and increasing income inequality, the president and right wing media will continue to promote the idea that he is a populist governing on behalf of American workers. This is why Lauren Duca’s article in Teen Vogue is garnering so much attention. She says that “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.”

To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself, often without bothering to conceal the conflicts within his own sound bites. He lied to us over and over again, then took all accusations of his falsehoods and spun them into evidence of bias.

At the hands of Trump, facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves, as our very reality is called into question.

Donald Trump and right wing media are legitimate targets of blame for this state of affairs. But I am growing increasingly intolerant of the more than 60 million voters who bought into this con job. For those who might have done so out of anger at “the elites” or due to a feeling of economic insecurity, the evidence is already overwhelming that Donald Trump is no friend of American workers. While I can feel empathy for their situation, it is a matter of fact that they got conned.

Our democracy is dependent on voters who inform themselves and vote accordingly. To the extent that people fail to do that and get gas lighted, it is in jeopardy. It is not disrespectful to expect our fellow citizens to do what is necessary to understand that we are all at risk when a lying con man is elected POTUS. I would suggest that the disrespect is heard in attempts to infantilize them by suggesting they are incapable of distinguishing between the truth and a lie.

We are past the point where blame is productive. But we are never past the point of learning from our mistakes. In order to do that, we need to be clear how this happened. Trump and right wing media ran a con job that over 60 million Americans bought in to. As we speak, it continues. How many of them are waking up to the fact that they got played? In the end, the only way out of this mess is if more of them begin to do so.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.