Last year, POTUS and his people were sure that the 2016 election would be rigged. This year, they have sought to discredit his loss in the popular vote: according to them, his three million vote deficit reflects not the will of the people, but the dishonesty of millions of non-citizens who fraudulently voted against him. Yesterday, his press secretary added a new chapter to the saga of the Evil Illegal Immigrant Voter, claiming that a whopping 14% of those who voted in the 2008 presidential election also lacked citizen status.
I suspect that POTUS and his people have been reciting these falsehoods in particular for the following three reasons:
- To further de-legitimize his predecessor Barack Obama, which comprises the driving force of his mass appeal. Remember that this POTUS first acquired legitimacy as a presidential candidate not just because he accused former president Obama of being a foreign-born, secret Muslim, but also because he continued doing so long after Obama had released multiple forms of documentation proving his citizenship by birth. Yes, this was racist. But more than that, it validated a central and increasingly discredited aspect of the collective white psyche: that their fears, perceptions, and emotions, especially about race, are valid and ought to be treated as authoritative no matter what anyone says or can prove. This empowering reassurance remains a central component of Trump’s allure. He tells his overwhelmingly white supporters that the world is as they need it to be and that they are right even, and especially, when they are wrong. Being white means never having to say your sorry.
- To further ramp up anger and fear at those slurred as “illegal aliens.” POTUS props up a specific type of fear: that they are coming here not to live alongside us, but to invade, conquer, take control of us, and steal what’s rightfully ours. This is boilerplate demagoguery: the more damage Trump’s followers believe that undocumented immigrants have done to the United States, the more damage the United States in turn is justified in doing to them. Xenophobic hostility and violence can be presented as self-defense. Trump in turn appears as a protector-in-chief: rather than a violator of longstanding norms, Trump has the guts to do what no one else could or would (especially, in their view, that un-American, untrustworthy, shape-shifting, black usurper, Barack Obama). Obama may have deported more immigrants than any other president before him, but only Trump validates the feelings people have about immigrants.
- To manufacture a way to stay in power if he loses the 2020 election. If he convinces enough people that non-citizens fraudulently vote in U.S. elections even though “the experts” insist that they do not, then Trump can cling to power indefinitely, basically conning his supporters into staging a bloodless coup. (See: reason #1).
Please, do not fall for this.