Donald Trump's con job

For Trump supporters, facts did not matter. The more he lied, the more they repeated the falsehoods. The more ugly he got, the more they loved him.

By Carl Wolfson of Portland, Oregon. Carl is a comedian and political commentator that hosted a progressive talk radio show for many years in Portland.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Sunday that there would be no investigations of Hillary Clinton.

Interesting that in the run-up to the election and during the campaign, congressional Republicans continually investigated Hillary, finding no evidence of wrongdoing. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump repeatedly said, “She’s guilty, folks” and Republicans such as Chris Christie and John Sununu led crowds in chants of “Lock her up!” Might all of this have been political? One of my Facebook friends wrote, “Hillary is guilty of crimes while running for office.”

McCarthy also said that Republicans would concentrate on job creation and funding infrastructure.

Interesting that for nearly eight years, Republicans blocked or refused to consider scores of President Obama’s proposals for more clean-energy jobs and modernizing our infrastructure.

During President Obama’s tenure, the unemployment rate was reduced from 10% to 4.9%. We have had 73 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Real GDP increased at an annual rate of nearly 3% in the third quarter of 2016. In 2015, household income was up 5.2% from the previous year – the largest single-year increase since record keeping began in 1967. The stock market has seen record highs while interest rates have been kept at historic lows. The federal budget deficit has been cut by two-thirds.

Imagine how much stronger our economy would be if Republicans had not blocked Democratic proposals for infrastructure spending or a minimum wage increase. Higher wages are the missing ingredient to move our economy into hyper-drive. Imagine how we could have begun to excise the cancer eroding the middle class – income and wealth inequality – if Republicans had joined Democrats in fashioning a more progressive tax code.

There are pockets in America where economic recovery has yet to fully take hold and where anxiety is real. Donald Trump blamed this on “Washington” and on “both parties.” He neglected to mention that one party (his) obstructed full recovery.

And here’s the sad part. Working-class Americans who voted for Trump got conned.

I have no doubt President Trump will work hand-in-hand with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and slide easily into Republican orthodoxy. We will again see tax cuts for the wealthy, more weakening of unions and workers rights, and attempts to privatize Medicare and Social Security – plus obliteration of consumer protection, environmental safeguards and Wall Street regulation.

Throw in military adventurism and we will have the exact formula that took us from Bill Clinton’s budget surplus and 22 million new jobs to George W. Bush’s deficits and Great Recession that sucked up to $14 trillion from our economy and wrecked the lives of millions. If you still think supply side economics works, visit Kansas.

Obamacare? In 2010, 16% of Americans did not have health insurance; today that figure is 8.6%. Premiums increased for 2017, but that could have been alleviated had Senator Marco Rubio not stripped funding for “risk corridors” in the Affordable Care Act. Risk corridors were designed to help insurance companies absorb the cost of more sick people, so they could keep premiums affordable until the marketplace attained stability. Rubio claimed they were an insurance industry bailout (Politifact rated that “mostly false”). Risk corridors were a key financing mechanism of the law; Rubio and other Republicans purposefully eliminated them to hasten the demise of Obama’s signature achievement.

Trouble is, without the Affordable Care Act, 20 million Americans will, once again, be “one illness away from bankruptcy.” Even preventive care will be unaffordable for most.

Republicans talk about health savings accounts or allowing insurance to be sold across state lines. But neither will solve the problem. Repealing Obamacare, rather than reforming it as Hillary Clinton proposed, will result in three things: more insurance company control over our lives (the industry’s anti-trust exemption, allowed under the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act, should have been repealed decades ago), an uninsured rate far higher than the current 8.6%, and a skyrocketing deficit. But Republicans only complain about high deficits when they are not the ones creating them.

Now, consider the con job on immigration.

On 60 Minutes on Sunday, Donald Trump downgraded his “big, beautiful wall” to part-fence. He said we must focus on border security. And he said his deportations would target “those with criminal records” (even though his numbers seem off by millions).

Interesting that in his 2014 executive action on immigration, President Obama directed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus on criminals, not families. Interesting, too, that in 2014, Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds for border security – and Republicans rejected it.

In 2013, the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform, as 14 Republicans joined all Democrats in a historic, bipartisan vote. The bill included tough border security measures, workplace verification and an arduous, decade-long pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Republican leadership in the House refused to bring it to a vote. Then-speaker John Boehner’s rationale was that he did not trust President Obama to enforce the security provisions of the bill. Democrats called his bluff and suggested the legislation come into force in 2017, after Obama had left office. Truth was, Boehner feared a Tea Party revolt.

It has long been a strategy of the Tea Party and the extreme right to keep the immigration issue alive as a means to mine votes through the politics of fear, racism and xenophobia. And how Donald Trump knew it! Rapists and drug dealers, he claimed, are “pouring across” our “unprotected” border, “murdering thousands” at will.

Martin O’Malley was right: Net immigration dropped to zero in 2014.

Jeb Bush was right: Most come across our southern border “out of love” for their families and a better life.

Boston University professor Christopher Salas-Wright cites the research: “Immigrants are not more likely than U.S.-born individuals to take part in crime.”

But why resort to truth or facts when demagoguery will do?

Trump even claimed that violent crime in America is “going though the roof,” when in fact the rate of violent crime has fallen 50 percent from its peak in 1991.

No candidate for president has ever served up a bigger pile of horse manure than Donald Trump. For the record, he did support the invasion of Iraq. He did urge military intervention in Libya. He did tweet that climate change was a hoax concocted by the Chinese. His company did discriminate against African Americans. He did not witness thousands of Muslims cheering after 9/11.

The capper may have been his debate assertion that “No one respects women more than I do.”

For Trump supporters, facts did not matter. The more he lied, the more they repeated the falsehoods. The more ugly he got, the more they loved him.

The rest of us awoke to an Orwellian post-mortem.

The self-acknowledged sexual predator won; the candidate who spent her adult life fighting for women’s rights and children’s rights lost. The unprepared BS artist won; the candidate who did her homework lost. The most un-Christian candidate, who carried a Bible as a prop, won 81% of the white, evangelical voters; his opponent, a deeply religious Methodist who follows Christ’s call to lift up the poor, garnered only 16%. And, most heartbreakingly, the candidate with the most votes lost.

Volumes will be written about the media’s role in this election. Beyond the tragedy that hard news and independent journalism have long ago been kicked to the curb by entertainment and the self-selected corners of the Internet (In February, CBS Chairman Les Moonves said of Trump’s candidacy, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”), I offer a single observation.

Why the obsession with, and inaccurate reporting about, Hillary’s emails?

The yearlong FBI investigation that ended in July concluded that in setting up a private server, Clinton had no intent to violate national security laws. Director James Comey said, "At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliff-hanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn't a prosecutable case." Whatever would be found in “a new batch of emails” was irrelevant to the settled question of criminal intent, yet the media lost its collective mind over the Huma Abedin server.

Instead of reporting that “new emails” would not change the conclusion of Hillary’s innocence, the story became a “shocking development.” These “potentially devastating emails” could “turn the election on its head.” Cable outlets quickly cut to Trump pronouncing Clinton guilty (again) as his Hillary-hating crowds sensed a kill.

Perhaps the episode did turn the election. But only because hype buried the truth.

Trump was a master at conning the media. He whined that it was unfair to him even as his outrageousness bought billions of dollars worth of free advertising.

In Democratic circles, I have heard that Hillary should have put forth her vision for the country instead of simply attacking Trump. Well, she did offer that vision. But how much of it penetrated 24/7 coverage of the freak show that was Donald Trump? When did you tune into a cable news show and hear about her plans to expand early childhood education? Or her “Make It in America” proposal to stengthen manufacturing?

HillaryClinton.com is still up. On the issues page, you will find 41 categories, from treating and preventing substance abuse to making college debt free. Each issue links to a detailed plan of action. I have read every one, and they represent the values I hoped our nation would embrace. “Stronger Together” was not simply a slogan, but the essential path for a diverse nation to claim any future worth.

Millions of Americans, including children, now live in fear. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented 300 incidences of hate since Election Day. And Donald Trump just appointed an avowed white nationalist, Steve Bannon, as his White House chief strategist.

I am certain that most Republicans hold conservative views that all of us should listen to and respect. But I am haunted by a video I watched more than a year ago. It was during a focus group of Trump supporters from Maryland and Northern Virginia.

The moderator asked a woman why she liked Trump.

She said, “Because he will make America great again.”

“How do you know that?” he asked.

She replied, “Because it says it on his hat.”

Perhaps that hat was Trump’s biggest con of all.

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