At a time when liberal opponents of Trump and his populist counterparts across Europe worry about the proliferation of “fake news” and a “post-fact world”—entirely legitimate concerns—it is important for them to get their own house in order and recognize that the penchant for incendiary distortions and outright lying is not exclusive to the right. For the real damage of these false accusations is ultimately visited upon not the imaginary Trump supporter but the anti-Trump cause itself—as well as the habits of critical thinking that are more necessary than ever for citizens of our republic.
The tendency to hyperbolize about Trump is partly influenced by an identity-politics-driven myopia which can’t see the unprecedentedly threatened societal forest because it’s so obsessed with each and every single one of the supposedly endangered trees. In the days after the presidential election, I came across countless social media posts in which the author recited some variation of the following lament: “Trump’s victory will most hurt women, African-Americans, undocumented immigrants, LGBT people, etc.” the list of potential victim groups extending sometimes for an entire paragraph or more. It was as if the authors of these posts were completely oblivious to the joke about the apocryphal New York Times headline, “WORLD ENDS: BLACKS AND WOMEN HARDEST HIT.” The bizarre inclusion of “LGBT” in this litany of victimhood notwithstanding (Trump ran as the most pro-gay Republican presidential candidate in history and made a point of addressing transgender concerns), there is indeed good reason for women, African-Americans, and illegal immigrants to be fearful of a president who boasted about sexual assault, spent years peddling a racist conspiracy theory about the country’s first black president, and promised to deport 11 million people.
But Donald Trump is not going to bring back Jim Crow, nor is his election going to result in the decriminalization of domestic violence, as just occurred in Russia. The predictions of impending doom for America’s minority populations sound a bit parochial in light of the negative consequences bound to be felt by vulnerable peoples in other parts of the world as a result of Trump’s ascension. Maybe the years I spent living and traveling throughout Central and Eastern Europe have warped my view of these things, but my list of the Trump administration’s likely casualties would be topped by Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Ukrainians and all the other peoples fated to live in what used to be called the “captive nations” who will likely be sacrificed upon the altar of Trump’s grand bargain with Vladimir Putin…
Another negative consequence of the left’s sloppiness in attacking Trump is that it unwittingly encourages an obnoxious tendency on the right to abandon criticism of the president’s glaring deficiencies for the more comfortable and familiar terrain of bashing leftists. For instance, using the word “hacking” to describe Russia’s role in the election lazily amalgamates the proven theft of Democratic party emails and their dissemination through Wikileaks with the totally unproven claim that Moscow somehow fiddled with the vote tabulations. And so rather than conduct some much-needed soul searching as to why the Russians preferred their candidate to his Democratic opponent, many Republicans choose to refute a false charge instead of confronting the correct one. Likewise, promoting the salacious dossier on Trump compiled by a former MI6 officer as if it were gospel truth allows the president to conflate its extraordinary—and entirely unproven—claims with the likely more accurate conclusions, reached by American intelligence agency heads “with high confidence,” that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself “ordered an influence campaign” in the election to help Trump.