The Trials Of Donald Trump

August 2nd, 2023 by Tom Lynch

Having just concluded a marvelous vacation in the wonderful Alaskan wilderness searching for Moose and Black Bear in Denali National Park, sitting in the sea 75 yards from the great Northwestern Fjord Glacier as large hunks of it fall right in front of me, watching brown bears bulk up for the winter on deep-red Sockeye Salmon at Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park, to what reality do I return in the beautiful Berkshires of the lower forty-eight? Why, of course, what else, another episode in the continuing saga of The Trials Of Donald Trump. What a way to come back to earth.

Hanging around the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage waiting for the long flight home, I picked up a local newspaper to while away the time, only to learn from a New York Times/Sienna College poll that the Grifter in Charge now leads his closest rival, the out-of-his-league Ron DeSantis, by 34 percentage points in the race for the Republican nomination for the presidential contest of 2024. This, despite his two indictments and recent conviction for sexually harassing E. Jean Carroll.

Then, upon landing in Boston, I was greeted by the News Flash of yet another indictment, the second brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith. This one has four charges, three involving conspiracies, and the fourth for “obstructing, or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.” And, despite his growing laundry list of charges, he continues to have the unwavering support and adulation of his MAGA cult following. In fact, the more indictments he faces, the stronger he seems to get. As the New Yorker’s brilliant Andy Borowitz so sharply pointed out, “The former President is but a few indictments away from clinching the Republican nomination.” And he wrote that before the latest.

If The Trials Of Donald Trump weren’t real, they would make wonderful television farce. But this is all real. So, how is it possible? In America?

I am painfully aware of our country’s political mistakes. You know, all the ones Governor DeSantis is doing his best to erase from history. But how has our orange-haired charlatan persuaded, no convinced, a significant chunk of the Grand Old Party, the one Abraham Lincoln made famous, that he is innocent as driven snow and is being persecuted by a corrupt Department of Justice and FBI, which, by the way, is led by a man he appointed?

Perhaps the answer has a lot to do with the illusory truth effect. As Aumyo Hassan and Sarah J. Barber point out in their May 2021 paper, The effects of repetition frequency on the illusory truth effect:

Repeated information is often perceived as more truthful than new information. This finding is known as the illusory truth effect, and it is typically thought to occur because repetition increases processing fluency. Because fluency and truth are frequently correlated in the real world, people learn to use processing fluency as a marker for truthfulness.

In other words, people tend to believe lies that are repeated over and over. And, as Hassan and Barber showed in their study, the more often they’re repeated, the deeper the belief becomes. Further, if someone wants to believe the lie, the more likely they are to do just that even faster. The lie becomes the belief, which becomes the deeply held belief, which becomes nearly impossible to correct. This has been proven throughout history time and time again. Donald Trump is just the latest competent practitioner.

Trump also knew it was not enough for him to be the only one spreading his lies. For them to take deep root in the consciousness of his followers he would have to dangle the pearls of power in front of fawning sycophants by giving them significant positions of governmental authority. Then, they could repeat and amplify his lies. Who can forget Trump’s Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway and her “alternative facts” when defending her boss’s lies?

The real damage Donald Trump has done to the country is not measured by the indictments and trials to come. No, the real damage he has done lies in the path to power he has shown others, the Kevin McCarthys, Jim Jordans, and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world, who walk right behind, following his example as if it were a bright red rope in the snow.

It will be a long, hard slog to wash clean the stain Donald Trump has poured over the face of America.