Donald Trump is indeed lying when he says that 3-5 million people voted in the 2016 election illegally. He recently made a claim in a room full of Senators that thousands of people were brought in on buses from Massachusetts to vote illegally in New Hampshire. He repeats the claims, and many are ready to dismiss it as mental illness or simple lying to avoid the fact that he lost the inconsequential popular vote, but is that all that’s there?
When Donald Trump makes the claims that voter fraud is widespread, it serves as a foundation of pretense for a crackdown on voting rights. The GOP has long since tried numerous methods to purge voter rolls and eliminate minority and poor voting rights. In this way, President Trump represents business as usual for the GOP.
The concerning part is when the fact that Trump would not promise to honor an election loss is considered at the same time with the fact that Trump is now and then still holding that elections are illegitimate and wrought with fraud. In four years, there is a very real possibility that Trump may lose and still make noise about illegitimate elections ousting him from power. That alone is a scary idea.
Trump’s lies may not be three dimensional chess. They may just be the boasting of an egomaniac, but they definitely have consequence. Even if the consequence is just that his die hard supporters take to believing the things he lies about, it will do damage.
Sadly, one of the most pointed and true things said during the last election cycle came when Newt Gingrich was being interviewed about Trump’s claims that the crime rate was through the roof despite the fact that there has been a 40 year downward trend in violent crime.
When Gingrich repeated the claim, the interviewer pressed him on it. Eventually, he capitulated and admitted that it might be factual that violent crime was at historic lows, but that people feel like it is skyrocketing. Then, he said, she could go with reality, and he would go with what people feel.
It takes a moment for something like that to sink in. It’s like swallowing a potato chip when you haven’t chewed enough. It hurts all the way down. The part that makes it hurt the most is, that it’s true.
And that is where another frightening ripple of Donald Trump’s lies come into play. He is changing the way people feel about reality, which effectively changes parts of the public debate to be in his own fantasy land, a battleground of his choosing.
The media has to strike a balance. They have a responsibility to avoid running Trump’s false claims without fact checking them. They also have to find a way to keep the country from going tone deaf to it. For the die hard Trump supporter, every headline that says Trump lies serves as confirmation of the liberal media conspiracy. For people on the fence, the danger exists that consistently calling Trump a liar might create belief in that conspiracy.