February Makes Us Shiver: Actions, Facts, and Head Fakes

Is it possible that President Trump and his support team are using advertising to divert our attention?  According to Lynton Crosby, England’s Conservative party’s 2015 election campaign director, “The most effective advertising is that which takes an existing perception and leverages it. Advertising is, of itself, not a very persuasive medium or a mind-changing tool. Its purpose is really to reinforce and trigger existing perceptions.1” The most effective advertising, as any ad biz pro will tell you, trades on powerful emotions.

Trigger. Perceptions. Leverage. Emotions. Does that sound familiar?  One of the narratives emerging around the noxious, un-American ban on immigrants is that it’s all just slight-of-hand.  Go ahead and spend your outrage there, the thinking goes, and you’ll barely notice this much more important thing we’d rather you ignore.  It’s a classic head fake, right out of The Autocrats Guide to Taking Power (if there were such a book), and it obscured something sinister.  Read on to find out what.

If what we’ve seen so far is, as Yonatan Zunger put it, a “trial balloon for a coup”, then it’s time to look past what we’re supposed to see to focus on what is in the shadows. We got distracted by the battle over crowd sizes and voter fraud, and maybe we’ll learn to ignore Trump’s feints to focus on his dangerous actions.

Presidents usually crow about their first 100 days.  Trump, ever impulsive, has been busy in just the first 10.  Let’s review:

-The Affordable Care Act has been identified as doomed. ACA opponents have offered no cohesive alternative .  The media has focused on the coverage of uninsured and largely overlooked all the other parts of this crucial legislation.  

-A global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option, was reinstated. First implemented under Ronald Reagan, the gag order has been routinely overturned by Democratic presidents only to be revived by Republican ones. On its own, this may be politics as usual, but other administration actions signal an attack on abortion rights, including the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. A bill that would prohibit federal funding to abortion service providers, and any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote. The week concluded with Vice President Pence speaking at a Pro-Life rally—a first for a sitting VP.

-President Trump has started keeping his troubling campaign promises.  For those wondering if the office would temper him: we now know the answer. Trump demanded a plan to defeat ISIS be presented to him in 30 days.  His Press Secretary said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea.  And on top of that, Trump signed an executive order was signed to begin building the wall between Mexico and the US. The President hosted a visit from England’s Prime Minister Theresa May while Mexico’s President, Enrico Pena Nieto, cancelled his visit amid banter over paying for the border wall.

-In a blow to our shared heritage and future, Trump ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline and revived the Keystone Pipeline Project.   Also troubling was the ban on EPA social media and outreach to our free (for now) press, which happened just as the agency was ordered to freeze all grants and contracts. EPA scientists were ordered to stop publishing their data unless cleared transition personnel.

-Muslims have endured verbal abuse throughout the Trump campaign. His administration has turned that hate into policy.  On January 27, Trump issued an executive order to close the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world. The Trump Administration’s order temporarily suspended immigration from seven majority Muslim countries, splitting families and stranding even longstanding US residents. Court battles erupted, resulting in stays that in turn provoked the first glimmers of the constitutional crises soon to come. Anger and confusion around the meaning of the ban abounds.

– The National Security Council members now include political strategist Stephen Bannon and exclude the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. This change was announced right in the middle of the Muslim ban, and while it’s been discussed, Bannon’s appointment hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention it would have on it’s own. It is noteworthy that, while President Obama included the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, President George W. Bush did not.  Most alarming to many is the inclusion of Bannon, a figure who many suspect is consolidating increasing, undue influence in the Trump administration.

Written by Denise Woodworth on behalf of the EPDC Education Committee

1 Delaney, S. (2016, January 20). How Lynton Crosby (and a dead cat) won the election: ‘Labour were intellectually lazy’. Theguardian. Retrieved January 29, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jan/20/lynton-crosby-and-dead-cat-won-election-conservatives-labour-intellectually-lazy.

2 DelReal, J. A. (2016, November 10). Trump campaign staff redirects, then restores, mention of Muslim ban from website. The Washington Post. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/11/10/trump-campaign-staff-deletes-mention-of-muslim-ban-from-website/?utm_term=.9ae42250dbc1

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