If You Watched The RNC, You Saw An Alternate Reality Built On Lies

President Trump and his allies used the RNC as a tool to spread disinformation that depicted an America that does not exist.

Donald Trump is facing one of the most difficult election campaigns for an occupant of the White House. America is currently in the midst of four crises: A health crisis, an economic crisis, an unemployment crisis, and a racial injustice crisis. As the man in the White House, the country attributes the blame for those situations to Donald Trump.

With the Republican National Convention taking place against the backdrop of these enormous difficulties, it’s no wonder that Trump and his defenders have sought to use the event to rewrite history. However, the level of dishonesty on display during the four-day event wasn’t just the usual attempt at political spin; it was an attempt to create an alternative reality.

Without the crowds of sycophantic supporters cheering everything he says, regardless of the many inaccuracies, and with his desperate need to falsify a record that has failed to secure a positive job approval rating from the majority of Americans, Donald Trump decided that, instead of trying to justify his actions or defending their impact, he would double-down on his worst habit: outright lying and embellishing the truth.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that this would happen, but the extent to which the Republican Party abandoned honesty is deeply troubling and unsettling. Donald Trump has been proven to be a serial liar. He used various dishonest tactics during his business career, from pretending to be his own publicist, to, reportedly, refusing to pay hundreds of workers and contractors for their labor. When he entered politics, what was once the problematic behavior of a self-reported billionaire became a problem for the country as a whole.

After three years in the White House, Trump is now arguably the most dishonest president in US history. The Washington Post has a running list of false or misleading claims that have been made by Trump during his time in office. The list has recorded over 20,000 such instances, with Trump, as of July 2020, averaging 23 false or misleading claims each and every day. It is concerning enough that the leader of a democratic country is telling lies during a pandemic, when citizens need to be able to know that they can trust their elected officials, but the frequency with which Trump is lying should chill Americans to their core.

The Republican Party had two hours or more on primetime television every evening during the RNC. Instead of using that platform to reach out to all Americans with visions of positive solutions to the country’s crises, or to explain what Trump’s agenda would look like in a second term, the GOP chose to lie shamelessly. Perhaps they were hoping their brazen dishonestly would grind viewers down until they submitted and accepted the Republican Party’s twisted version of the awful events that have taken place in the USA over the last 3.5 years.

Of course, it is to be expected that all political conventions will contain some falsehoods and misleading statements, embellishing the truth to make their political candidate more appealing to the country. But the GOP has taken the absence of honesty and accuracy to a whole new level, with their representatives telling stories that appear deranged, delusional, and just plain fiction. Consider, for example, the RNC’s response to the coronavirus outbreak – Vice President Mike Pence took to the stage at Fort McHenry and claimed that: “Before the first case of coronavirus spread within the United States, President Trump took the unprecedented step of suspending all travel from China.”.

That’s false. The ban that Trump imposed allowed tens of thousands of people to travel to the US from China. Standing in front of the White House on the following evening of the RNC, Donald Trump claimed that: “We developed, from scratch, the largest and most advanced testing system in the world.”. Another lie. Testing in the US has been slow and significantly lagged behind other developed nations in the early days of the outbreak.

The false narrative that Donald Trump and his entire network of fixers and enablers have created isn’t just delusional: it’s dangerous. It shows how the Republican Party is so wrapped up in fighting the 2020 election that they are unable to accept the magnitude of the problems currently challenging America, even though some of those problems have been created by the Trump administration itself.

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Trying to present the coronavirus pandemic as a mild and unconcerning threat that will soon go away, instead of confronting the reality that it is a serious health crisis that needs to be tackled by cross-party effort in the national interest, is resulting in a devastating and deadly impact. To this day, Trump has still not released a federal plan to slow the spread and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases. As a consequence, over 180,000 Americans have died from the virus and nearly 6 million have been infected with the virus. The Trump administration’s inaction has massively contributed to these numbers.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, whose appearance alone was a violation of the Hatch Act, delivered a five-minute speech on the third night of the RNC. While her remarks were relatively brief, they contained one of the most significant lies of the evening and the convention as a whole, claiming that Trump “stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions”. That isn’t just misleading. It’s blatantly false.

At this moment, the Trump administration is fighting in court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which would end protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Since the Republican Party, despite having had 8 years to come up with one, has not yet proposed an alternative healthcare plan, without the ACA, health insurance companies will be given free rein to either deny coverage or charge extortionate prices to those in this category. In her speech, bravely detailing her personal situation, McEnany called fellow women at risk or affected by breast cancer “a testament to American strength”. If the Trump administration is successful in the Supreme Court, they will be rewarded for that strength by having their health insurance made unaffordable or stripped away entirely.

Potentially one of the clearest areas where the Republican Party is living in an alternative universe is how speakers addressed, or in some cases failed to address, growing calls across the country for a resolution to social and racial injustice. Repeatedly throughout the convention, it was claimed that Trump is the only candidate who can protect Americans and keep them safe while calling protestors “thugs” and terrorists” who will invade your suburbs.

But the question that has to be asked is: Who does Trump mean when he refers to ‘Americans’? African Americans aren’t being kept safe right now, as police brutality continues to take lives from their communities, attacking and murdering innocent individuals. The RNC didn’t just fail to provide a solution to this extremely important issue. Again and again, speakers pushed the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’, or promoted the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ movement with a disproportionate focus on only protecting law enforcement officials. As a result, the RNC failed to demonstrate any understanding and regard for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign, choosing instead to create further division in a country that is already dangerously divided.

That rhetoric is damaging at the best of times, but in the wake of an incident where police shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man seven times in the back, within plain sight of his young children, such a deliberate and calculated failure to convey any concern for the specific difficulties being faced by people of color is downright cruel and callous. This rhetoric undoubtedly fuels confrontation between fellow citizens, resulting in incidents such as the one that ended with a supporter of Trump and the ‘Blue Lives Matter’ movement murdering two protestors in Wisconsin.

Trump and those around him must believe that taking this stance will appeal to their voter base. Whether it proves to be an election-winning strategy remains to be seen. But, aside from the electoral considerations, what might be the cost of Trump’s unapologetic promotion of his staunchly conservative views? His attitudes and pronouncements clearly create division and tensions between different elements of the American people, ultimately inciting violence and causing societal damage that will be long-lasting and, for some people, might be irreparable.

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Trump’s policies and statements lead those who feel left behind and mistreated within the country to speak out against injustices and, when they do so, Trump threatens retaliation and claims to be a law and order president who will restore calm, further stoking division and distrust. For many people, this cycle seems to be ridiculous. Trump repeatedly invents ‘enemies of the state’ (the media, social media companies, peaceful protestors, etc) and then promotes himself as the defender of the state, seeking to defeat the enemies that he invented.

Rather than being a law and order president, Trump presides over an administration where he encourages and facilitates blatant disregard for the law, with many of his associates having faced criminal indictments. Trump himself only avoided being removed from office during impeachment because of the support of Republican politicians. Members of the Trump family are prohibited from operating charities due to breaches of regulations. Under the current administration, millions of ordinary people are facing hardship and chaos, with a woeful lack of concern for their plight from their president. Throughout all of this, the Trump campaign’s message from the RNC speeches seemed to be that only Donald Trump can save Americans from Donald Trump’s America. This is an extremely concerning situation, but is perhaps not surprising from a president who has built his political career on dividing America.

Even after the RNC had finished, the GOP continued to try to engineer a political stunt, with some of those in attendance choosing to walk out of the White House straight into an anti-Trump protest that had been taking place throughout the evening. As anyone could have predicted, the protestors approached the guests who were leaving Trump’s speech and began to make their thoughts clear and express their right to protest under the First Amendment.

Instead of avoiding these protestors or calmly engaging with them or acknowledging their right to demonstrate, Republicans, led by Senator Rand Paul, claimed these protestors had “attacked” them and thanked the local police force for “literally saving our lives from a crazed mob”. The GOP once again saw an opportunity to whip up animosity against their opponents by taking events out of context and presenting them in a deliberately exaggerated and misleading manner that suited their narrative.

While the Democratic National Convention sought to unify America and present a plan for Joe Biden’s presidency, the Republican National Convention presented a display of dishonesty that reflects Trump’s refusal to accept reality. If Trump wants to be a Twitter troll who peddles problematic conspiracy theories from his penthouse in Trump Tower, by all means, he can inhabit a world that only exists within his head and the heads of his misguided followers. If, however, Trump wants to remain as the President of the United States and be re-elected in November, he needs to recognize the need to take a drastic turn and start campaigning on the basis of truth and reality, rather than falsehoods, and confront the real issues facing America today.

To some extent, we’re witnessing a re-run of the 2016 presidential election, with conspiracy theories abounding from the right, but this time the media and many voters, on the whole, are wise to these tactics and aren’t willing to fall into the same traps. Trump’s 2016 strategy of lies, lies, and more lies won’t work this time around. The Republican Party needs to accept reality or get out of the way because America cannot continue to suffer while the GOP promotes a twisted fantasy.

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Opinion // Disinformation / Donald Trump / Republican Party / RNC