Watching a Fox News segment on Friday night, Trump saw a documentary filmmaker present two pieces of data: the rapid rise in immigration from “mainly Muslim countries” and a shocking spike in reported rapes. Because both of these statistics apply to the same country at the same time (Sweden since 2014) the correlation breathlessly slammed into causation.
Both numbers are undisputed but the rise in reports of rape is clearly due to a major redefinition of what legally constitutes one count of rape in Sweden. This change came about because it is one the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to equality for women and they are now empowered to report sexual assault in ways we should all use as a model. The percentage of how many of those rape allegations were by immigrants is completely in line with every other country regardless of immigration policy.
Later, defensive Trump sycophants merged the real data with a fake news story that 72% of rapes reported in Sweden are perpetrated by immigrants but again, that is completely false.
The next day Trump gave a speech and while talking about terrorism in general and the dangers of having insecure borders he mentioned Sweden in the vaguest possible terms. He said something “happened last night” and he assumed everybody knew what he was talking about.
But they didn’t. Boy didn’t they.
A former Swedish Prime Minister tweeted “what was he smoking?” because especially in the context of the speech and without reading Trump’s mind it was not unreasonable to think he was referring to something other than those non-correlated pieces of data from a random Fox news story he happened to see the night before.
It’s not that a terrorist attack took place “last night” it’s that he learned about this (false) data “last night” on Fox News.
So Trump was sloppy. He was sloppy to use Fox News as a source, he was sloppy not to question the reporting, he was sloppy not to call one of the 20,000 experts on immigration and international crime trends in the State Department to check things out, he was sloppy in the way he referenced the news report in his speech, he was sloppy trying to infer this data justifies “extreme vetting” as he vaguely defines it, he was sloppy to forget that while his people might watch Fox News the rest of world can hear his speech and they don’t watch Fox.
The one thing he did not do is the one thing the entire world is making fun of him for doing: he did not claim there was a terrorist attack in Sweden on Friday night.
Trump tells the story of a culture of violence, not a religion so much but a political structure like Communism or Democracy called “Sharia” that is the enemy of America. These Sharia people are looking to take over America, destroy the American way of life and make of every citizen bow to their religious God. And then kill everybody.
He made a sloppy, factually inaccurate analogy but his audience is not looking for slick presentations. They are nervous about Jihadist fanatics crossing over American borders with the intent of doing Americans harm and Trump speaks to those fears. So he said “last night” — so what? Who doesn’t jumble up words and phrases sometimes?
When an everyday person on the street expresses concern about the potential of a 9–11 repeat attack, the actual concern is hardly ridiculous on its face. We know American law enforcement agencies share those concerns to the tune of many billions of tax dollars and considering how many attacks there have been everywhere else in the world they seem to be doing an amazing job at prevention in the States.
Meanwhile the progressives tell the story of a shady business man who conned his way into the White House spreading fear of a minority religion and willing to make up incidents of terrorism because nothing consolidates power at the top like fear mongering about safety and there are clearly forces in the White House looking who are not democratic constitutionalists.
But millions of people have some version of terrorism-related fear and the progressives’ story doesn’t address that fear, it dismisses it. When the progressive do give the concerns any mind they immediately focus 100% of their attention on the undercurrent of racism or Islamophobia that many Americans do harbor and the Republican party in particular attract and tacitly encourage.
So conservatives need to own up to some facts:
- The Republican party has become a celebrated haven for the racists and Islamophobes — that’s not the same as saying every Republican is a racist, just that clearly overt racist organizations align themselves with Trump and the Republican party and not enough is being done to acknowledge that and isolate those organizations to the fringe as much as possible.
- There are forces at work in the White House that are openly undermining constitutional values and more Republicans like Joe Scarborough need to speak out against that instead of rationalizing it as just disgruntled Hillary voters having a bitchfest. This is serious stuff.
Meanwhile, progressives have their own list of things they need to acknowledge:
- Writing off millions of Americans with totally legitimate concerns about security is elitist.
- Making up stuff about what Trump said (or ‘willfully mischaracterizing’ it) just because doing so is a great setup to be sarcastic is elitist.
- Refusing to have a conversation with a Trump voter unless you can convert them is elitist.
- Being frustrated and walking away (defriending) when they are not converted is neo-colonialist.
Here’s some questions that I would like to see every progressive consider:
- At some point doesn’t it make sense to look at what you could have done to effect a different result last November?
- Do you think acting elitist worked for your cause in the election? Or did it work against your cause?
- Imagine having a conversation with a Trump supporter where you did not try to convert them and did not criticize them in any way. What exactly would be the harm in doing that one time?
- What would it look like if you channelled your intelligence, humor, and creativity at bringing down the institutions that threaten our democracy and not at bringing down other Americans?
Eventually the progressives, that is: the majority of the country, will contain Trump’s power grab and those amongst us that are exposed and most vulnerable today will be protected and cared for by the good people all over the country.
The legacy of that victory will be determined by the tenor of the fight. Leadership does not begin the day after the victory, leadership is there every day of the fight. If that fight is lead with hate, spite, bitterness and elitism then it will have been a pyrrhic victory, hardly worth fighting. But if the fight is done with love, self-awareness and empathy then all things will be possible because good people everywhere will feel heard and included and they will flock to build solutions, political, societal and personal that work for everybody.