Donald Trump took to social media on Monday with a message for his millions of followers: all negative polls are fake news.
He was reacting specifically to a series of polls run by CNN and pushed out across cyberspace. Results have come back from a variety of sources which all show that a majority of Americans oppose a now-suspended travel ban implemented at the end of January. The ban, which was signed into effect as an executive order, put a temporary hold on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. Legal aliens with green cards found themselves stranded abroad, unable to board flights home. Even would-be tourists found their visas canceled after the State Department issued an edict in line with the administration.
Protests in support of refugees and American Muslims broke out across the country. While millions do remain stalwart backers of additional vetting, there is clearly a growing rift between left and right.
What should concern everyone is how Donald Trump has pushed away the truth to propose an alternate reality. His Monday tweet was a 140-character long dismissal of 53% of all people living in the United States.
“Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting,” the president wrote on Monday, refuting statistics being publicized by both CNN and Fox News.
CNN launched a piece not long after justifying the validity of the results they published. Senior correspondent Brian Stelter explained that the polls used to gather data about political stances and legislation are conducted scientifically. He opined the latest Oval Office is only part of a longstanding trend. Trump, after all, has always been conscious about his reputation. Nobody can plaster their face onto a magazine or have their name stamped across a building without worrying about what sort of brand is being built.
The president’s brand so far has been one of control, dominance, and assertion. From The Apprentice to fencing disputes with his neighbors in Scotland, Donald Trump has always been quick to retaliate against naysayers. His historical insistence on being right – one being the best, the biggest, and the most bold – has found new ways to express itself in the White House. The Park Service had its social media presence neutered after it Tweeted photographs comparing crowd sizes between the 2008 and 2016 inaugurations. Donald J. Trump knew his crowd was the better than Barack Obama’s, just as he now portends to know that polls showcasing disapproval of his policies and presidency are “fake news.”
Never in recent history has the United States had a leader so averse to the slightest hints of criticism. When polls showed Donald Trump topping his competitors during the Republican primary, he proudly read the winning figures off at rally and during speeches. Now that statistics aren’t bending his way, he’s decided the best course of action is supposing they were made up by “crooked pollsters” and ornery liars.
Perhaps there’s a grain of truth in what Trump is suggesting. Sometimes polls can be misleading, as they may contain language which persuades respondents in a certain direction. However, that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening in 2017.
What is happening in 2017 is a terrifying exercise in replacing reality with a set of unchecked and illusory “alternative facts.” Americans, by and large, are less happy with Donald Trump than they were with George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or Richard Nixon. He is the least popular newly-elected president in our modern political history.
Donald Trump has obligations to a constituency which extends beyond the people who voted for him. The leader of the most powerful nation the world has ever known is obligated to keep his ears piqued and his mind open to thoughts outside the echo chamber. If he really intends to make America great again, Trump needs to understand that dismissing criticism and publishing only the good numbers isn’t how democracy works.