Three recent columns implored my progressive and liberal friends to listen to and respect the deeper concerns of those on the right. This brief essay is implores my conservative friends to refrain from being taken in by Trumpian propaganda.
I’m on a couple of Republican mailing lists. It’s probably because I faithfully respond to their “surveys”, which are riddled with questions implying the horrors of continued Democratic control of the White House over issues that don’t exist and economic conditions so distorted they bear only the faintest whiff of reality. Anyway, yesterday’s mail brought the first fund raising letter from Donald J. Trump himself, and it was a propaganda gem.
Hilary, Crooked Hillary to be specific, was said to be allied with liberal special interests, and nothing could be worse than allies that are both liberal and have special interests. Nothing has to be said about what liberal meant, or what the special interests might be, because we know that the words themselves tell all. However, simply calling something liberal was not enough; it quickly became “ultraliberal” backed by Democratic leaders called ‘Bleeding-Heart” and “Hatchet-Man”, the allies of “Crooked Hillary.” What strikes me is how easily these transfer to the every day vocabulary of Trump supporters. Not long ago when talking with a group of my Trump supporting friends (yes, I do have them and they are my friends), I stopped the conversation and said no more labels. If you think she is crooked then tell me exactly what you are accusing her of. After a painful silence there was a weak attempt to rehash old issues long resolved as unfounded or immaterial, and then the admission that “I just don’t like her.” Thats fair enough, she’s done a lot of things not to like, but no more labels, and especially labels that haven’t been personally evaluated for accuracy, using a reliable source, which does not include Fox News or talk radio.
Well, back to the letter. It went on to accuse Obama’s leftist legacy of being responsible for America’s downward spiral. What leftist policies might be in that legacy? What downward spiral would that be? Terms were never defined, but a gifted propagandist knows they not only don’t need to be, they shouldn’t be. Of course ObamaCare was high on the suspect list, charged with a list of specious accusations easily accepted by those who have not examined them. Then there was the liberal plan to pass blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants instead of securing our borders. What plan would that be? Has anyone ever seen or heard of such a plan? No! But there’s the Wall again, to be paid for by Mexico. Amazing!
Trump crowed about the assertion that more Americans are out of work since Carter’s administration. It’s one of those smidgen of truth things. In the face of eight years of all time record job growth, it is true that between retirements and persons who have dropped out of the job market, there are a lot of people still out of work, but that begs the question because it’s a phenomenon in the face of unprecedented job growth that could have been even better had Congress showed any inclination to cooperate with the administration. He also complained about the slow growth of the economy with no awareness that it is at its maximum rate given the constraints of world economic conditions.
Of course he trotted out the $8.5 trillion growth in debt over the last eight years without acknowledging that half of it is due to accounting for war costs kept off the books by the previous administration, and that the annual deficit has been reduced faster and farther than under any previous president other than Clinton. For a deal maker whose entire empire is based on debt (and getting out of it through bankruptcy), he seems to have no idea how national debt works, but that’s another issue. He probably does know, but those who follow him don’t, and it’s easy to scare them with big scary numbers.
In the end, his fund raising letter, like the surveys I respond to, was a masterpiece of old time propaganda. What troubles me is that old time propaganda works, and it works well.