Amplified by powerful conservative media outlets, President Trump’s baseless assertions of mass voter fraud are eviscerating trust in American elections. Indeed, according to one poll, only 3 percent of Trump voters believe President-elect Biden won the 2020 election.
Far worse, death threats against election officials – most of them Republicans – are met by near-universal GOP silence. At the same time, some high-profile Trump surrogates are openly calling for martial law.
The takeaway from this dangerous erosion of democratic norms is that Americans must push back – forcefully – against Trumpism. Thankfully there is a silver lining to the president’s unprecedented attempts to overturn the election results.
Many Trump voters are deeply invested in the president’s claims of widespread voter fraud. But the collapse of these far-fetched theories is forcing many Trump supporters to confront reality, creating a rare opportunity to undermine Trumpism.
As Trump’s electoral and legal defeats prompt Republican introspection, Americans must reach out to their Trump-voting family and friends. Direct engagement is the best – and perhaps only – way to penetrate the all-powerful right-wing echo chambers that sustain Trump’s brand of politics.
Importantly, humility and respect must carry the day. Belittling or Trump-style braggadocio over the legal drubbing that the president’s conspiracy theories are taking will only breed resentment and a doubling-down in support for Trump.
Thankfully, Americans can draw upon a broad array of topics to respectfully challenge the misconceptions at the heart of Trumpism.
Trump’s destructive trade war with China – which likely contributed to a spike in suicides and bankruptcies among American farmers – did not alter Beijing’s behavior in any meaningful way. Ditto for Trump’s glaring failures on Iran and North Korea.
The president’s supporters may also be surprised to learn that the Obama administration deported more people than Trump, who is presiding over a surge in border crossings unparalleled in recent years.
Little by little, the Trumpian con becomes more apparent.
Indeed, the president’s relentless bragging about the economy obscured a basic truth: The vast majority of economic gains over the last four years are products of the Obama administration’s aggressive recovery efforts.
For example, Trump boasted endlessly about record low unemployment, especially among minorities. But the unemployment rate did not magically drop after Trump took office; he simply happened to occupy the White House when a years-long trend reached its nadir. Moreover, job growth in every one of Obama’s last three years beats Trump’s best year.
To top it off, the Trump tax cuts, which benefitted the wealthiest Americans and added trillions to the debt, had no significant effect on the economy or wages. Indeed, economic growth never came close to Trump’s fantastical promises.
As the luster of Trumpism wears off, the president’s supporters may also be less inclined to dismiss reporting that Trump insulted and mocked the millions of Christians who propelled him to the White House.
Meanwhile, as coronavirus deaths surge to staggering heights, Trump has displayed little interest in governing; bad news for the seven million Americans who lost health insurance over the last four years.
Some of the president’s supporters may also be unaware that the two issues – guns and abortion – that drew many of them to Trump were largely uncontroversial for the first two centuries of American history.
Indeed, prior to the late 1970s, many American evangelicals were generally ambivalent about abortion. Many even drew upon the Bible to inform their pro-choice views. That all changed in 1979, when Jerry Falwell mobilized millions of previously apolitical evangelicals by using abortion for political gain. Even so, 61 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
In a remarkable parallel, the NRA was once a moderate, nonpartisan organization that supported – and even helped shape – gun control legislation. But a dramatic change of leadership in 1977 saw the rise of ideological hardliners who turned the NRA into the hyper-partisan, fear-mongering entity that Americans are familiar with today. And yet, 60 percent of Americans favor stricter – yet sensible – gun control laws.
The transformation of guns and abortion into deeply divisive wedge issues coincided with another destructive – and similarly avoidable – development: the decades-long decline of the American middle class. Contrary to Trumpist myth-making, most Democrats voted against shipping American jobs overseas. The same cannot be said for Republicans.
Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the Departments of Defense, Commerce and Labor. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.