Donald Trump, Conservatism, & the Right’s Loss of the Battle of Ideas
On January 22nd, Donald Trump’s chief counselor Kellyanne Conway went on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ to discuss Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s blatantly false claim that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the “largest ever”. All it takes is a Google search to disprove the notion that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the largest in history. Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration, for example, was attended by an estimated 1.8 million, while Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd size stands at an estimated 250,000. When challenged by NBC’s Chuck Todd on this claim, Conway said that the Press Secretary was simply stating “alternative facts”.
Chuck Todd’s immediate reaction to shake his head and laugh was similar I’m sure to the immediate reaction of many people not just in the United States, but around the world. But once we get past the ridiculousness of the statement, it doesn’t take long to realize just how disturbing this rhetoric is.
Let's be clear: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ALTERNATIVE FACT. A fact is a fact. Facts are verifiable, concrete, and not up to interpretation. It speaks volumes about the complete disregard of reality on the part of Trump and his administration that they would invent such a term in order to feed into his narcissism and insecurities. If something as insignificant as inaugural crowd size is able to spark this sort of dangerous rhetoric, then it begs the question: where does it end?
In the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency, there has been a near constant bombardment of new scandals. One example: National Security Advisor Mike Flynn stepped down because of his ties to Russia that made him vulnerable to blackmail (a vulnerability that the President was fully aware of). So what was the Trump Administration’s response to these scandals? To point to the news, and call it fake. During his first solo press conference since being sworn in as president, Donald Trump addressed this scandal by literally saying: “the leaks are real, the news is fake”.
The leaks are real, the news is fake.
As President of the United States, one of Donald Trump’s roles is Party Chief. As “Chief of Party”, Trump is the highest ranking member of his political party. In this position it is his job to communicate the ideals of that political party to the public, and help get likeminded people elected. As a member of the Republican Party, Donald Trump’s is the chief representative for the political party that’s also in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The chief representative of the most powerful political party in the United States has not only tweeted the term “fake news” six times in the past week alone, he referred to the press as the enemy of the American people.
Putting aside the deeply disturbing, fascist and dictatorial nature of that rhetoric, what does it say about conservatism in general? The conservative’s party chief is asking the public to completely disregard reality and truth in order to push his narrative. When it comes to the battle of ideas between leftists and conservatives, this is a clear indicator that conservatism has not only lost this battle, they’re no longer even attempting to fight. To modern day conservatives, the truth has become irrelevant. With the encouragement of the most powerful conservative in the country, every day right wingers are able to point to objective, factual news and simply dismiss it as fake.
We are living in a time where the most powerful man in the world is attempting to destroy the idea of objective reality, and that’s terrifying to say the least. The president is able to turn to his base and say: “here’s what I want you to believe, please believe it”, and they will do it based on blind trust and faith in his honesty. Conservatives are no longer even attempting to make the case for small government, lower taxes, and less regulations based on facts, statistics, and data because they simply can’t. Those things no longer even have a place in the discourse when discussing conservatism, so what are we supposed to do about this?
At a time when the truth is under such violent attack, the most important thing we can do is fight against the normalization of these attacks. It is more important than ever to speak truth to power, and never stop discussing and drawing attention to how disturbing the administration’s rhetoric towards the free press and reality continues to be. Stay sharp, stay vigilant, and hold your elected government officials accountable.