We live in the post-truth era; an era defined by the celebration of anti-intellectualism, hyper partisanship, cynicism, spite, and manipulation. These malignancies did not just create Trump, they pushed him up to the altar. But why do they persist in the first place?
Just a couple days ago, Trump ordered the Office of Management and Budget to “crack down on federal agencies’ antiracism training sessions, calling them ‘divisive, anti-American propaganda,’” despite a recent national spike in action against the murders of Black Americans by white police officers. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, had the temerity to write in a memo to executive branch agencies that “[t]he President has a proven track record of standing for those whose voice has long been ignored and who have failed to benefit from all our country has to offer…” A quick fact check shows that statement is 100% bullshit.
Yet this kind of lie is enough to sate Trump’s supporters. Why? In my view, it’s for the same reason QAnon took off — people love a cult. And conspiracies. And feeling like their failures are because of something out of their control. I’m not being funny here, either. Trump supporters eschew critical thinking for group think, eat up Trump’s word salads, take his nonsense conspiracies as gospel, and regurgitate his lies as immutable fact. If that doesn’t make a cult, I don’t know what does.
Trump echoes blue-collar frustration and takes advantage of blue-collar vulnerabilities. He preaches to his followers about his nonexistent accomplishments and promises them prosperity if they vote for him. He hooks people in like a demagogue, and corrals them like a cult leader.
Like all other cult leaders, however, Trump is a false prophet. The post-truth era might enable Trump to maintain support, but it will never enable his lies to become truths. He will not bring peace or prosperity. For God’s sake, the man has enough bandwidth to understand the principle behind umbrellas, but not enough to figure out how to close them. How the hell could he navigate a G20 meeting?
But if Trump wins a second term, all of what he’s done to upend this nation and world more broadly will become far more difficult to walk back from. As much as we must work to restore faith in media, science, and education, the fact is that toothpaste of the post-truth era will never fully be put back in the tube. A vote for Joe Biden, however, sure as hell will be our best bet to ensure that no more toothpaste gets out.