Donald Trump is a gigantic hypocrite. By now, this is a well-known fact of life.
The beginning premise of Trump’s campaign was generating fear of undocumented immigrants; it turned out that undocumented workers built Trump Tower and modeled for Trump Model Management. He said as a candidate that he was for “traditional marriage,” yet he’s been married three times. He whines about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem because he thinks it’s disrespectful to the military (which he knows nothing about), despite the fact that he’s criticized pretty much every level of the military since he started running, including the families of those who have been killed fighting America’s adventures in the Middle East.
For some liberals, the one example of Trump hypocrisy that gets their blood boiling the hottest is the president’s golfing schedule. Trump golfs incessantly, despite the fact that during Obama’s presidency, he — like other conservatives, and liberals during the early years of Bush’s presidency — constantly criticized his predecessor for hitting the golf course during times of crisis, and that during the campaign he said he wouldn’t “have time” to play golf. The website TrumpGolfCount.com (named after a conservative site that counted Obama’s golf outings) has a running count of exactly how many times the president had golfed (it’s up to 69 at the time of this writing) and how much it’s cost taxpayers (more than $73 million.)
Trump is making the 69th visit to a golf course during his presidency while the Mayor of San Juan is literally begging for WATER. https://t.co/9WTg2OSXlq— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) October 8, 2017
But we — the vast majority of us, anyway, including some Trump supporters — knew it would be like this. And outside of the echo chamber of those who are already firmly against Trump, calling Trump a hypocrite isn’t going to have any material effect on generating real opposition to him. Hypocrisy as a weapon in politics is dead, partially because the credibility of politicians in both parties has plummeted to the point at which a liar and a hypocrite like Trump could get elected in the first place.
Trump isn’t alone, of course, in his hypocrisy. Conservative “budget hawks” used the deficit in the federal budget — which had exploded under Bush due to tax cuts — as a cudgel against Obama during his presidency, and Obama was driven enough by naïveté to find a grand consensus that he bought the lie. In 2010, he formed a commission chaired by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Erskine Bowles, a centrist Democrat from North Carolina who was former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, which proposed mandatory spending cuts of over $1 trillion and would have badly damaged Social Security and Medicare. That didn’t work, so the next year, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which triggered automatic and austere across-the-board spending cuts in 2013 when Congress couldn’t come to an agreement.
We knew it would be like this.
It turns out that now that they’re in power, Republicans don’t seem to care about the deficit anymore. Trump’s tax reform plan, which passed its first step to becoming reality when the Senate voted for the budget on Thursday, would cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade; the White House waves away the negative impact that this would have on revenues by saying they will be made up by the economic growth unleashed by the tax cuts, a concept that has been proven to be bullshit over and over again.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who said in 2012 that a ballooning deficit could lead to a financial crisis, has been a major ally of Trump on the tax plan.”Congress must seize this rare opportunity,” he wrote in a May op-ed for Bloomberg. “We can't let a fixation on deficit predictions or arcane budget rules get in the way.”
In an interview with The Hill last month, North Carolina Congressman Mark Walker, a deficit hawk who voted against Hurricane Harvey funding because it didn’t include cuts as well, admitted that most in his party simply don’t care about the deficit anymore now that they have a chance to make drastic tax cuts. “It’s a great talking point when you have an administration that’s Democrat-led,” Walker said. “There’s been less talk about it this year with a Republican-led administration than there has been the last seven or eight years.”
Of course, the Democrats aren’t free from sin, either. A significant reason for the party’s success in 2006 and 2008 was the abject failure of the Iraq War, and the Democrats ran a campaign on intending to end it. The experience of Cindy Sheehan, who became a leading anti-war figure on the left after losing her son in Iraq, is a good example of why Democrats’ approval ratings aren’t through the roof even as Trump and Republican governors around the country.
“Every Democrat I met with in 2005 said, ‘If you help us win the House, we’ll help you end the war,’" she explained in an interview with Slate last year. Even though they did win, the new Democratic majorities continued to fund the war, which wouldn’t end until 2011. “I still had some kind of illusion that they really cared about these issues the same way I did, but they really only cared about power.”
Although Obama never proclaimed to be a steadfast anti-war proponent — he said as far back as 2002 that he didn’t “oppose all wars,” citing the Civil War, World War II, and the war in Afghanistan as necessary wars — he did say in 2013 that he wanted to take the country off of a “permanent war footing.” Instead he presided over a country at war for every second of his presidency, was complicit in Saudi Arabia’s reprehensible war in Yemen, and expanded both the use of drones and the surveillance state.
All of this hypocrisy, on serious issues like war and austerity to patently unserious ones like golfing, has contributed to an erosion of credibility among both major parties and their figures. Congress’ approval rating has dropped to as low as nine percent in recent years and currently sits at 16; Trump’s approval rating has steadily remained in the mid-to-high 30s for months; and according to the Huffington Post, the cumulative net approval ratings for the Democratic and Republican parties are minus-11 and minus-23, respectively.
All of this hypocrisy has contributed to an erosion of credibility among both major parties.
Hypocrisy is a commonly accepted part of the process now, and one could say it’s even a way of dealing with the reality that ordinary people, by themselves, are powerless. If there are no consequences for destroying families with impunity, or leaving Puerto Rico to die of thirst, or lying to start an unnecessary war that kills hundreds of thousands and destabilizes an entire region, or not holding financial institutions and executives accountable for gambling away the economy, or any of the other litany of ways that politicians have failed us in recent years — then why would anyone actually care about hypocrisy?
But if we want a better country without the cruelty and hypocrisy of what we know as the American presidency, we need to build power with those who have the least and are being hurt the most. Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later; when it does, Trump can golf all he wants.