HOW WOULD ONE go about hiring protesters that Republicans insist are getting paid to do what, in fact, they are eagerly doing for free?
Perhaps there’s an app where you can order them up like a combination platter: a few dozen middle-aged guys to say, “I’m a Republican, but . . . ”; a bunch of millennials who now realize there is a difference between the two major political parties; a dollop of citizens who finally understand that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing; a sprinkling of the intense silent types who can glare for hours; and a heaping side order of those who relentlessly spew like volcanoes at the political object of their disaffection.
Do you find them on Craigslist? (Nah, I already checked.) At your local big-box hardware store? Could they be actors waiting tables while dreaming of their big chance to emote “Dump Trump”?
Certain that their management of the country is going well, President Trump and some GOP members are trying to convince anyone who’ll listen that all those people with their signs, chants, and bottomless indignation are being paid to stir up dissension and opposition.
This is an “alternative fact” or, as those of us grounded in reality would call it: a lie.
Not surprisingly, Trump, who loves taking credit for things that have absolutely nothing to do with him, doesn’t want anything to do with this one. Yet it’s his historically dysfunctional, ruinous presidency that’s compelling people in the streets and online.
Last week, when voters lambasted Representative Jason Chaffetz during a town hall in his Utah district, he told reporters that the boisterous crowd was “more of a paid attempt to bully and intimidate” him and was not indicative of his constituents’ true feelings.
Chaffetz refuses to believe voters could be upset that he, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, spent months hounding Hillary Clinton about her private e-mail server but can’t muster the same fervor in going after Trump’s conflicts of interest. So far, Chaffetz seems more willing to go after underlings than the president himself. He claims he sought “guidance” from the Office of Government Ethics on what to do about senior counselor Kellyanne Conway hawking Ivanka Trump products on TV. The OGE is now recommending that Conway be disciplined by the White House. Yet hours after Michael Flynn resigned as the president’s National Security Adviser, Chaffetz was asked whether there should be further investigation into Flynn’s knotty Russian connections. His reply: “It’s taking care of itself.”
In other words, “Nothing to see here, folks, let’s all just move along, OK?” (Several GOP senators aren’t as convinced, and are pushing for a probe into connections between Trump and Russia.)
This is why Trump and his minions work so hard to undermine agitators, even within his own party. Like the “fake news” charge leveled against any journalist or news organization that exposes Trump’s lies, “paid protesters” is just another pejorative term meant to delegitimize opposition. When Stephen Miller, Trump’s White House policy advisor, eerily warned Sunday that the “powers of the president . . . are very substantial and will not be questioned,” it was like chum for the protesters circling this unsettling administration.
Protesters will not be deterred by presidential insults or attempts to sow mistrust and confusion among them. They will continue to contest every challenge to their civil rights and liberties, and to the Constitution. Unlike Trump, the millions protesting against him aren’t motivated by money. They’re driven by an often difficult, but fierce love for this country, and will guard it against all enemies, even the one inhabiting the White House.
And that devotion to protecting the well-being of this nation, a cause bigger than any individual, is something this president will never experience or understand.Renée Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham