Donald Trump likes to blame everyone but himself for his administration’s failures and problems. Following a botched raid in Yemen, he’s blamed his generals for a navy SEAL’s death. The travel ban against seven mainly Muslim countries failed because it was clearly unconstitutional, but Trump blamed the judges and the judicial branch in general, even suggesting they will be responsible for future terror attacks. And now he’s told another lie: President Obama has been organizing the popular protests across the country.
In a new interview for Fox News, Trump claims that Barack Obama is behind the recent wave of protests against the administration’s actions. There is no evidence of this claim nor could there be. Republicans and their media allies have blamed Organizing for Action, a group supporting progressive causes that originated from Obama’s presidential campaigns, for stoking protest but the evidence is lacking.
“You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes,” Trump told Fox. “I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it.”
Trump’s latest claim about the origin of the protests is another attempt to de-legitimize the protests and their sideline their grievances. Right-wing claims that the protesters at town halls around the country were paid by liberal groups is a similar tactic and is similarly unfounded. All these claims, along with the lie about massive voter fraud, are designed to undermine resistance and criticism.
But Trump’s latest claim is potentially very dangerous. Trump is essentially saying a former president is attempting to influence politics by orchestrating protests. This kind of underhanded political activity happens in struggling democracies and countries teetering on dictatorships. By saying Obama is orchestrating protests, Trump is undermining the democratic norms underpinning the American system.
There are serious questions about Trump’s attitude to protests. If he genuinely believes Obama is clandestinely influencing politics, Trump may use this belief to discredit all forms of protest against his policies. If he really believes that massive voter fraud took place in 2016, how will he respond if he loses in 2020 by the same or a larger margin? Will Trump accept defeat or blame Obama and other conspirators for plotting against him?
The real danger of Trump’s imaginary conspiracies is that he and his supporters act on them. To Trump, all opposition is conspiracy, the former president and Hillary Clinton are secretly influencing everything. Trump’s imaginary dark forces may lead him to take dangerous actions against his opponents, real or invented. The real danger of Trump’s fantasies is that he acts on then.