So what madness will he come up with next?
It has been two weeks since he accused the former President of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower–an allegation he refused to retract yesterday during his news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Two weeks and no evidence. However, to his supporters, he doesn’t need any evidence; his words are the only proof.
Trump understands that through Twitter, he can invent his own truth. In this respect, he is quite similar to the operative (said to be Karl Rove) in the George W. Bush White House who infamously boasted to writer Ron Suskind about the Bush team’s ability to create its own state of being:
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
We’re left to study what Trump’s doing now. In a way, Trump is doing historians a favor: with every 140-character broadside, he provides evidence of just how fundamentally shallow and reckless he is, how profoundly unfit he was for the presidency, how deeply wrongheaded a minority of general-election voters were to cast their fate to the wind by casting their vote for this mendacious man.
The folks who voted for Trump created and directed this chaos and disorder, this “deconstruction of the administrative state,” this barbaric budget, this sabotaging of health care, this evisceration of the environment. While the rest of us recoil in horror at the words “President Trump,” they rejoice. They think Trump’s Twitter rants–his baiting of North Korea, his lies about the Affordable Care Act, his whining about the Fourth Estate–are a sign of stability and maturity.
Even if Trump only lasts one term, he will have severely damaged the integrity of the Presidency. Removing his stain will take at least a generation. This country was able to recover from Nixon’s criminality, from Reagan’s ideological vehemence, from Bush II’s lies and incompetence. How can this country possibly recover from the man who combines the worst traits of those previous Republican presidents?
Let’s say Trump is defeated in the 2020 presidential election, and another right-wing ideologue returns the White House to GOP control in the 2024 presidential election. That ideologue could also use Twitter to control media narratives, advance blatant falsehoods, smear political adversaries and invent reality–and he or she could do it even more effectively than Trump has.
From this perspective, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Trump is merely constructing a political culture that will benefit a future right-wing American authoritarian.
Perhaps Trump has already normalized nonsense. Perhaps he has already successfully blurred the line between reality and fiction, resulting in a critical mass of Americans not being able to tell the difference. Perhaps he’s not thinking about his current poll numbers. Perhaps the whole idea is to gradually have America become accustomed to “alternative facts,” to think of incendiary tweets as no big deal, to move the Overton window as far to the right as it can possibly go. If so, how can we block him?