Saturday, February 24, 2018

Trump’s Conspiracy Theories a Danger to Democracy

MATT EPSTEIN  ’19

OPINION EDITOR

Dating back to our government’s beginnings, conspiracy theories and American politics have frequently gone hand in hand. Whether they were writers at small media outlets, or bloggers in the deepest corners of the internet, conspiracy theorists have always questioned the “official” stories on government happenings.

Was 9/11 an inside job? Are American elections rigged? When presented with facts, it becomes apparent that most,  if not all conspiracy theories carry no basis in reality. Fortunately, conspiracy theorists have often stayed hidden in their dark corners of the internet, with their ideas commonly refuted by both the general public and the government.

This past Saturday though, the President of the United States joined the ranks of conspiracy theorists, bringing dangerous and unsubstantiated claims to our country’s highest office.

Undoubtedly, Donald Trump’s Presidency is off to a rocky start. Whether it was his dystopian inauguration speech, the controversy surrounding his immigration ban, or the resignation of Michael Flynn, Trump’s approval ratings have taken a nosedive.

Perhaps the biggest controversy of all has been his ties to Russia, over which Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently recused himself from related investigations. With another controversy boiling, Trump attempted to “flip the script”, tweeting early Saturday morning that, “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” While certainly a serious accusation, Trump’s comments hold no basis in reality. Doubling down on his unsubstantiated claims, he again tweeted that, “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

Although Trump’s accusations are both serious and without merit, they shouldn’t come as a surprise. While it’s out of the minds of many by now, President Trump was after all, the leader of the birther conspiracy. This conspiracy attempted to delegitimize  his predecessor, President Obama, by suggesting that he was born outside of the country. Previously, Trump has also suggested that climate change is a “hoax invented by the Chinese,” which he later claimed to be “fake news.”

Whether President Trump actually believes his conspiracy theories, or whether they are just politically motivated is, and probably will always be unknown. It’s hard to say, however, which of the two possibilities is more frightening. For President Obama to wiretap Trump’s phones, he would have needed to obtain a warrant. For a court to give him a warrant, there would have to be significant evidence that Trump was doing something illegal, enough evidence to invade his privacy.

Therefore, Trump can’t claim that his phones were tapped without admitting to some sort of wrongdoing. On the other hand, the President’s conspiracy theories could very well be politically motivated. With dysfunction and controversy surrounding his administration, Trump could have simply made up false claims, prompting the media to report on that, instead the Trump Administration’s real issues. If this is the case, Trump is purposefully attempting to deceive the American public in order to legitimize his Presidency. Whatever the case may be, Donald Trump has made “conspiracy theorist” synonymous with “President of the United States”, and in doing so is threatening our democracy.

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