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Robert Reich: Why President Trump Will Continue Holding Rallies – OpEd

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Donald Trump has just finished the last of his nine post-election “thank you tour” rallies. Why did he do them? Why is he planning further rallies after he becomes president?

One clue is Trump conducted them only in the states he won. And most attendees appeared to be people who had voted for him – overwhelmingly white, many wearing Trump hats and T-shirts. When warm-up speakers asked how many had previously attended a Trump rally, most hands went up.

A second clue is that rather than urge followers to bury the hatchet, Trump wound them up. “It’s a movement,” he said in Mobile, playfully telling the crowd that in the run-up to the election, “You people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall?’ ‘We want the wall!’ Screaming, ‘Prison!’ ‘Prison!’ ‘Lock her up!’ I mean, you were going crazy. You were nasty and mean and vicious.” He called his followers “wild beasts.”

A third clue: Rather than shift from campaigning to governing, Trump’s post-election rallies were almost identical to the rallies he held when he was a candidate – the same format, same condemnations of the “dishonest” media, identical pledges (“We will build a great wall!”). They also elicited many of the same audience responses, such as “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

And rather than use the rallies to forgive those who criticized him during the campaign, he’s used them to settle scores — criticizing politicians who opposed his candidacy, like Ohio Governor John Kasich; blasting media personalities who predicted he would lose, such as CNN’s John King; and mocking opponents, such as Evan McMullin, the Republican who campaigned against him as an independent in Utah.

Trump vows to continue these rallies after he becomes president. As he told the crowd in Mobile, “They’re saying, ‘As president, he shouldn’t be doing rallies.’ But I think we should, right? We’ve done everything else the opposite. This is the way you get an honest word out.”

“Get an honest word out?” That’s the real tipoff.

Like his non-stop tweets, Trump’s purpose in holding these rallies is to connect directly with a large and enthusiastic base of followers who believe what he says – and thereby reject facts from mainstream media, policy analysts, government agencies that collect data, and the scientific community.

During the rallies Trump repeatedly claimed, for example, that the murder rate in the United States is the largest it’s been in 45 years. In fact, it’s near a 50-year low, according to the FBI.

A democracy depends on truth. Trump’s repeated claims that the murder rate is soaring may elicit support for policies such as harsher policing and sentencing – the opposite of what we need.

Trump also repeatedly said he won the election by a “landslide,” when in fact he lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes – over five times Al Gore’s margin over George W. Bush in 2000.

And he repeatedly asserted that the election was marred by “massive voting fraud,” when in fact there has been no evidence of voting fraud at all (unless you consider the possibility that Russia hacked into our voting systems – which Trump dismisses).

Here again, the biggest potential loser is democracy. When continuously told by Trump that he won by a landslide, the public may give him a mandate he doesn’t deserve. If told of “massive voter fraud,” the public may support further efforts to suppress votes through rigid ID and other requirements.

If repeatedly told Muslims are the enemy, the public may support efforts to monitor them and their places of worship inside America, or even to confine them. If told that tide of undocumented immigrants is rising (in fact, it’s been falling), the public could get behind draconian policies to keep them out.

If told to disregard scientific evidence of climate change, the public may reject efforts to reverse it. If told to disregard CIA reports of Russian tampering with our elections, the public could become less vigilant about future tampering.

The rallies and tweets give Trump an unprecedented platform for telling Big Lies without fear of contradiction – and therefore for advancing whatever agenda he wishes. It’s no coincidence that Trump continues to denigrate the media and hasn’t held a news conference since July.

A president intent on developing a base of enthusiastic supporters who believe boldface lies poses a clear threat to American democracy. This is how tyranny begins.


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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

One thought on “Robert Reich: Why President Trump Will Continue Holding Rallies – OpEd

  • December 20, 2016 at 2:19 am
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    Mr. Reich appears to believe that we should believe instead the lies of the MSM. Unfortunately, the MSM interfered with fair primary elections by vilifying one candidate and hyper praising the one they wanted. It is no secret that Bernie won the primaries, but was pushed out of the nomination with false play and voting fraud.

    There is no certainty that Hillary’s larger vote count is not artificially inflated with millions of votes by non-US citizens who voted illegally by misusing lax regulations to register for voting. Given the corruption and even criminal intentions in the Clinton campaign – going all the way to murdering 4 individuals who disagreed with the partial DNC actions and the massive voting fraud in the Dems primary vote – and the complete silence of the MSM in regards to it, Trump has every right to distrust the MSM: after all, the MSM clearly thought they could hack it again with the same methods by vilifying Trump more than any contender for president was ever vilified and attacked. There is not even a pretense of genuine journalism left anymore. That he wants to inform his supporters personally is only justified. That it would result in the dystopia described by Reich is unlikely. That Trump wants his supporters to understand that there wasn’t any Russian meddling in the elections is reasonable: That entire boondoggle was invented by Hillary and Obama to cover up their corruption for which they could in fact be indicted – any regular person would be in jail for way less – and to continue Hillary’s victim standpoint as excuse for a mediocre campaign without any substance nor vision. Trump did win in a landslide: he won 307 of the electoral votes and about 30 of the 50 states. That is a landslide. What the vote also showed is the importance of the electoral college so that the liberal cities along the coasts cannot outvote the more rural inland states.

    Personally I don’t identify with any of the political party platforms. Some things are good with one, some with another and some with none. I would have voted for Bernie, had that been possible. Given a choice between Hillary and Trump, Trump was the less dangerous choice. Yes, inland it will be chaotic. And yes, some of his appointees are excessively conservative. However, if Trump holds good on creating well paying jobs, none of that will affect anybody too much. While I believe that every democratic state needs a social safety net that allows people to live decently in difficult times, given a choice between well paying jobs with little social services and a meagre social safety net to complement low paying jobs as was the case under the Obama admin., Trump’s approach is preferable. Trump’s real test will be what he does with healthcare. That is the most tricky problem to be resolved. Ironically, Bernie’s solution: to increase taxes by some 4% and institute a single payer medicare type system to pay for all healthcare costs is the least expensive approach. Any involvement of insurance companies increases the cost without increasing the quality of care. But the very conservative picks in his cabinet and in Congress will unlikely accept that a “socialist” solution is in fact more cost-effective than privatization. Premiums will be high in any system of privatized healthcare – because the cost of care is high and specifically the billing of such healthcare is expensive and private companies need to make a profit. A single payer healthcare combined with private hospitals and doctors, so the hospitals have to compete for patients, would give a better environment. And the government would have a say when hospitals are lacking in standards. it would also give the government leverage to negotiate for less expensive medical drugs and push down on prices if hospitals want to justify excess. But such solutions require a non-partisan standpoint and parties by definition are partisan.

    I think Trump has a point in wanting to inform people of his intentions and ideas directly. He has reason to upset at the media and to want to cut them out. It is up to the media to change their approach. Even Mr. Reich did not get himself to look at Trump’s policies and cabinet picks from both sides: the negative and positive sides. The choice of Tillerson is excellent. It almost guarantees better relations with Russia – i.e. detente. Nothing is more desirable than that. As to China, Trump will have to negotiate better agreements so trade is a bit more two-way than it is now and so China does not syphon off US jobs. But the solution will be in US innovation and change of work. In the long run, each country will have a sort of nice market and the nations will exchange based on these niches. Until each country finds its niche it is a bit difficult as jobs leave to the lowest cost production environments and innovation is by necessity slow.

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