There’s a lot at stake for all of us when it comes to U.S. politics. That’s because, at its core, "politics" is about policy to most people — potholes, or lack thereof, in your streets to the quality and cost of the schools you or your children attend. Policy is a tangible, real-world outcropping of politics, i.e. what the majority of your immediate and collective neighbors (though not necessarily you) demanded in the last election.
But even when the two parties disagreed on solutions, in the past, they at least agreed that potholes exist. Not anymore.
For instance, last week Trump said “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
It's hardly the first, and won't be the last, misleading statement issued by our head of state. On Wednesday the Washington Post released a disturbing report that showcased how Trump is lying, misleading or just giving his base what they want to hear at the alarming rate of making 7.6 false claims a day. The Post’s database shows that Trump’s uttered or tweeted 4,229 falsehoods in less than two years in office.
More disturbing though is the steady uptick in falsehoods that follow the president like a dark cloud: Trump’s stretched the truth, to put it mildly, 978 times in the past two months alone. Their data also shows that close to 150 times he’s repeated already debunked claims not twice but three times.
Why would the President of the United States feel such impunity to say whatever he wants — even after being debunked by dispassionate professional stenographers — whenever he wants?
The president — our president — knows that he can utter falsehoods because he feels no pressure to do otherwise from within the party he’s adopted, even co-opted, as his own.
But right now, the nation desperately needs the Republican Party to call out their standard bearer for his repeated stretching, twisting, bending, breaking and destroying the very search for those things we used to call "facts."
It’s an internal family dialogue in which outsiders just can’t play a constructive role, because we’ll be smeared as “fake news” or perceived as threatening the president’s agenda. This isn’t about one policy or another; the existential crisis facing the Republican Party, the nation and the world is about the very nature of reality. Or put another way whether that pothole is really a pothole. And, right now, many in the GOP are fine when the president points to a pothole and says Look at that fish.
Sadly, on Capitol Hill, most of the nation’s elected Republicans continue to brush aside questions about what the president baselessly claims to be true.
“I have a long standing policy that I won’t respond to tweets,” Ted Cruz told me and some other reporters just yesterday.
"[I’m] not going to comment on the tweets of the day or the hour," House Speaker Paul Ryan has repeated variations of countless times.
“I'm not a fan of the daily tweets," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters back in February 2017; by the year's end, that had evolved into “I'm warming up to the tweets” after Trump signed McConnell’s long-sought tax reform package.
We all have long lists of the policy proposals for which we long, but you have to ask yourself: What would you trade for those wishes to come true?
The answer will vary for all of us, but it should never be detached from your foundational principles.
For example, it doesn’t make you any less of a principled conservative if you call out the president of your own party for lying about tariffs; in fact that may make you more of a principled conservative. And it doesn’t make you anti-Trump to follow in Ronald Reagan’s steps and curse Russian interference in the formerly sacred American electoral process. You can even embrace #MAGA while also decrying Trump for undercutting the nation’s farmers.
None of these are mutually exclusive; you don’t have to sell parts of your soul in order to fulfill your larger ideological goals and deeply held desire to make our American society better (or at least more in line with your worldview).
Remember your true roots which ought to be grounded in that rugged, American spirit of individualism. Tribalism seems a tad anti-American, or at least moronic; there’s no reason that any of us must agree with anyone 100 percent of the time.
That’s not the American way: Americans disagree with each other with a ferocity the rest of the world can sometimes barely understand. Debate makes us all stronger; iron sharpens iron, after all.
Sharpen that iron. Please start with President Trump.
Our commander-in-chief needs to know he’s being held to account — not by Special Counsel Robert Mueller or by the world leaders whose noses he loves to tweak. He needs to know that Republicans are holding him to account. Only his base can reach him, so please do so and just let him know that facts matters.
Sure, Democratic presidents have misled voters or outright lied to the public — all politicians lie, which might be why Congress is so disrespected — and there’s no reason that voters should have (or should give) them a pass for those false portrayals of reality.
But right now there’s a Republican in the White House who is lying to all of us at an unprecedented rate, so it’s time for those in his fold to speak truth to power. America needs you right now.
Matt Laslo is a reporter who has written for NPR, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, The Guardian and VICE News, among others. He's also an adjunct professor teaching regularly at The Johns Hopkins University and has taught at Boston University and The University of Maryland.