Trump wants to be seen as
the sole authority for truth
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the
media at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Trump entered the White House as the least popular American president
since the dawn of modern polling, and after a couple of weeks on the
job, his standing has not improved. The latest survey results from Gallup, CNN, and CBS News point to a president with weak national support, pushing ideas that the American mainstream generally opposes.
this backdrop, Trump has a few options. The president could say, for
example, that he’s doing what he thinks is right, without regard for
popularity. He could also say his agenda may lack support now, but
Americans will grow to appreciate his ideas in time.
But this morning, Trump, who’s clearly aware of the polling, went in a very different direction.
negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the
election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”
Positive polls, from the White House’s perspective, are to be trusted,
but any negative poll must necessarily be seen as wrong and “fake” –
because Trump says so. He knows what “people want,” so evidence to the
contrary, by definition, must be wrong.
One of the most alarming
aspects of the Trump presidency is how often he applies this kind of
thinking to aspects of modern American life. Don’t trust news
organizations. Don’t trust the courts. Don’t trust pollsters. Don’t
trust U.S. intelligence agencies. Don’t trust unemployment numbers.
Don’t even trust election results.
Too often, Donald J. Trump suggests there’s a sole authority for truth, and the public is supposed to think it’s him.
matters quite a bit worse, some Republicans are inclined to go along
with this style of authoritarian thinking. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.),
the chairman of the House Science Committee, recently advised Americans
“to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the
only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
This is a twisted
perspective, not just because the president routinely has no use for
reality, but also because, in a democratic society, the idea that
truth-seeking citizens must turn exclusively to the national leader is
so antithetical to American norms, it’s genuinely offensive.
is, however, eerily consistent with a Republican president who told
voters during the campaign, “Politicians have used you and stolen your
votes. They have given you nothing. I will give you everything… I’m the
only one.” In his GOP convention speech, Trump added, “Nobody knows the
system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it…. I am your
And that voice is now telling us not to believe
public-opinion polls he doesn’t like. It’s not a healthy approach to
politics in a democracy.