Fittingly, that statement was a lie.
In news that will come as little surprise to anybody who has followed the campaign closely, Trump’s speech was littered with misleading claims and even a few flat-out untruths.
Some were obvious, like when he said, “America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” It isn’t. In fact, according to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is among the least-taxed nations in the world.
Some of Trump’s deceptions were more subtle, like his claim that “2 million more Latinos are in poverty today than when President Obama took his oath of office less than eight years ago.”
Upon immediate inspection, that looks correct, because poverty among Hispanics is up by 2.1 million since 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But, as researchers at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out to the Huffington Post, Obama didn’t take office until January 2009.
Poverty among Hispanics is actually up by less than 1 million since then. And it’s safe to assume that much of that decline, probably most of it, took place in the first few months of Obama’s term, while the deep recession he inherited from the Bush era worsened and before any of his own policies had time to take effect.
Oh, and the latest census data is from 2014. By now, the level has probably come down a little more.
Elsewhere in the speech, Trump claimed that crime is soaring, even though it’s still down dramatically since Obama became president and the evidence of a recent rise is still ambiguous.
He stated flatly that immigration has driven down wages and driven up unemployment, especially for African-Americans and Latinos. But the effect of immigration on wages remains a highly contested subject among the experts, with many and probably most economists arguing that immigration doesn’t push wages down.
Meanwhile, unemployment for both African-Americans and Latinos happen to be near or at historic lows right now.
And that’s to say nothing of instances where Trump left out important context. For example, Trump blamed Obama for the dismal state of American infrastructure. He’s right that the nation’s infrastructure desperately needs work. But Obama has proposed huge investments, year after year, only to be blocked by Republicans in Congress.
Of course, deception has been a hallmark of the Trump campaign. Independent, nonpartisan organizations like Politifact and Factcheck.org have called out Trump over and over again for his misrepresentations, many of them blatant and obvious.
And while they’ve cited misrepresentations by Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, they’ve found her deceptions to be both less frequent and less extreme than his.
Will Trump’s supporters care? Probably not.
They care about trust, for sure. It’s one of their core issues. But for them, trust is not about accurate claims on policy, or realistic portrayals of the world, or honest descriptions of other politicians. No, for them, trust is all about tribal loyalty. They think Trump is with them and Clinton isn’t.
That is why they are so angry about Clinton’s lies, real and imagined. All of her perceived deceptions ― about Benghazi, the email, the Clinton Foundation ― would represent forms of betrayal, instances when she abandoned or undermined the interests of ordinary Americans in order to advance her own political or financial fortunes.
Trump has his own history of betrayal, from stiffing contractors to exploiting financially strapped students of Trump University, and it would appear to be a lot more egregious than Clinton’s. But exposing those stories seems unlikely to influence his supporters any more than exposing his lies has.
Author: Jonathan Cohn