Trumpism started with the claim that Obama was not born in the United States. Follow that until now, President Trump utters a lie in almost every statement, press conference or comment. Trump even lies for things so demonstrably false, and so small for his persona, that one starts to question his ethical and moral fitness for the highest political office in the world.
Sadly, it did not start with him.
Despite both the Republican and Democratic Party lie to stay ahead in politics, Republicans use lying much more frequently and effectively than Democrats. The competition for the greatest number of falsehoods and lies is not even close, the GOP takes the top spot, as Trump has shown. Part of the effectiveness of falsehoods in the GOP constituency is, I think, understandable given the conservative philosophy of the GOP. Fear of change and fear of the new is embedded in conservatism, and any change in our status will spark sometimes irrational emotions in oneself.
One can see the value of the fear of change, it is so valuable that liberals can and should take this fear into consideration. For example, take democracy, the political philosophy of governance of, for and by the people. If one hundred years from now a new political philosophy of governance arrives, independently of its attributes, improvements or drawbacks, fear is an understandable emotion in response to this proposal. One can extrapolate this high-stake example to other ideologies or achievements of western society in the last centuries. Take for example women and minority rights, these are achievements we the society would like to conserve until the end of times, and any change of these values should provoke distress in society. The greatest strength of a society is not fear itself, but how you respond to that fear.
The no taxes mantra, and therefore the dismantling of modern government as an effective way of governance, has been carried out based on the believe that taxes discourage the creation of jobs and curtail individual freedoms in society. This ‘leave me alone’ libertarian political philosophy has been the backbone of the recent change of the GOP to a sectarian party. This libertarian philosophy has led to the believe that economic prosperity is based on ‘limited government’ and ‘individual freedoms.’
The fact of the matter is, there is no evidence, no systematically collected data, that justify the current believe system of the GOP that prosperity is based on ‘limited government,’ specially when this term is used as a catchphrase that means nothing if not well defined, and when there is no common response if asked how limited should the government be. Some politicians argue, for example, for the dismantling of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), without noticing the corrupt nature of some people, and the unstable humanity of most of us. There is basically no difference, in terms of intent, between a murderer thief in the street and a murderer white-collar criminal, both are killing for money. You can even argue that the white-collar criminal may be a worse crime because it can kill more people with one bad product. Regulations from FDA and EPA assure the US, and therefore the world, that the worst human impulses of us do not harm the entire society.
In fact, the evidence collected in the last century indicates that GDP growth has been roughly similar since 1961 between the US and two countries who award large governmental benefits to its population: The Netherlands and Norway. In addition, Norway consistently ranks higher in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, a measure of economic output, and The Netherlands follows closely the US. In addition, the poverty rate (people living under $5.5 a day) is 0.2% in Norway and 2% in the US, ten times larger.
The current believe system of the GOP on ‘limited government’ and ‘low taxes’ has collided with facts, and a reckoning is coming. Polls consistently show that most Americans prefer ‘big government,’ if defined. 70% of Americans prefer ‘Medicare for All,’ and 60% of Americans support free college tuition. The best way for Democrats to channel this public sentiment is to propose smart government, based on evidence-based solutions that work, and considering the American cultures and preferences.
A Personal Note: The so-called ‘moral superiority’ of liberal over conservative ideology is non-existent, as much as conservative ideology is not ‘morally superior’ to liberalism. Both are complementary, I think. The Republican believe that liberals think of themselves as morally superior is mistaken. Most liberals, I think, are thought to be less irrational themselves and less understanding of the anti- intellectualism and lower tolerance of some in the right and far-right. Personally, and I think some in the GOP believe that their lies are excused because they are doing the best for America, deceiving themselves and the entire country. Another response to losing several arguments over the last decades has been the anti-intellectualism in Republicans. Some GOP-leaning websites have even questioned the value of college education. Most of this trend is explained by the recent discomfort of the GOP to an evidence-based world that, as much it has rejected communism, rejects some of the believe system of the Republican Party. One of the outcomes of the anti-intellectualism in Republican ranks, are the political attacks on so-called ‘liberal media,’ nothing more than a response to fear of change, and the evidence and rational based world that newspapers and news media have helped spread.
An even more Personal Note: I am not American, but deeply care for them and the world. Despite all its flaws, its institutions are still the shining light of the world, and the current crisis deeply pains me.