If you listen to him long enough – no easy chore – Donald Trump will tell you all his secrets.
Witness this line from his July 3 speech in Sarasota, Florida:
“If you say it enough and keep saying it, they’ll start to believe you.”
Trump was talking about alleged disinformation directed at him and other Republicans. But WOW does that quote explain everything you need to know about his approach to the presidency and life.
(Sidebar: One can only hope that Trump was unaware that his quote was a near-replication of this infamous line from Nazi Joseph Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”)
Trump has spent a lifetime – in business and politics – repeating exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies to make himself look good.
The books he wrote prior to politics are littered with quotes extolling the virtues of making up a reality and then repeating it until people start to believe it.
“I play to people’s fantasies,” he wrote in “The Art of the Deal.” “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole.”
“If you admit defeat, then you will be defeated,” Trump wrote in “Think Big.”
Once he came into the presidency, Trump, unsurprisingly, kept it up.
“Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Trump told a VFW group in 2018. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
Unfortunately, Trump’s blueprint works.
Take the 2020 election. Despite zero evidence of any sort of widespread election fraud, a majority (53%) of Republicans said in a Reuters/Ipsos national poll in late May that President Joe Biden’s victory was “the result of illegal voting or election rigging.” More than 6 in 10 Republicans (61%) agreed with the statement that the election “was stolen from Donald Trump.”
Siloed in news bubbles and social groups that sync up entirely with their own views and “facts,” a large chunk of Republican voters have been convinced that the election was somehow stolen – largely because, well, Trump told them it was.
To take advantage of trust people put in you – as well as their narrow news diet – is, of course, deeply irresponsible. And the opposite of what it means to be a leader.
But for Trump, “winning” is the only goal – and the single measure by which he wants to be judged. Truth (and its consequences) be damned.
The Point: Trump’s willingness to mislead people solely for his own purposes may well be the most dangerous attribute of a man with lots and lots of them.