by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
June 14, 2017
Text of speech delivered at the March for Truth demonstration at the State Capitol on June 3, 2017.
Hi friends. It’s great to see everyone here this evening standing up for truth.
And yes, we must demand the truth about Donald Trump’s connections with Russia.
And yes, impeachment hearings should start first thing Monday morning against Trump for his obstruction of justice in the firing of James Comey.
And yes, there’s a special place in hell for people like Paul Ryan, who in their heart of hearts must know that Trump is a danger to our democracy. I mean, you can’t say about Trump that he’s just given the textbook definition of a racist comment and then turn around and endorse the man without having totally lost your moral compass. But there Ryan is, still enabling Trump every step of the way.
You today are part of a nationwide rally for truth, and we must rally for truth not just about Trump and Russia but about truth itself, which is under outright assault right now. The flagrant, florid, and unceasing lies that pour from the lips of Donald Trump and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway are unprecedented, whether it’s about the size of the Inaugural crowds, the allegation that millions of undocumented people voted illegally, the crime rate, or even the so-called “historic” trip that Trump just had and the “unbelievable” relationship he has with Angela Merkel.
But there is a method to this madness. Because to insist that up is down and down is up is the calling card of the authoritarian, as George Orwell warned us 70 years ago. Because if they can make you believe it, or even begin to wonder about it, they’ve got you off balance and can knock you over.
Hillary Clinton made this point in her commencement address at Wellesley. You know, I’ve not always been a big Hillary fan, but she was absolutely right when she said that we’re witnessing a “full-fledged assault on truth and reason and the Enlightenment,” and that if they get away with this, it’s “the beginning of the end of a free society.”
And that’s what worries me more than anything: That Donald Trump is a kind of a Fascist. No, he’s not Adolph Hitler. He hasn’t written Mein Kampf. In fact, he hasn’t written anything in his life but a bunch of bad checks.
But he does brag about being a “total nationalist.” And historians, including the late George Mosse right here at the UW, have warned us that ultranationalism is a critical component of fascism. And so is bigotry, and Trump has displayed that, too, in his attacks on Muslims and Mexicans.
So when we’re standing up for truth, we’re standing up for democracy, too.
I’d just like to make one more key point: Let’s not, in our perfectly laudable demand to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russia ties, provide fuel for a new Cold War. We need to have some historical knowledge here, and we need to exercise some prudence, too.
On the knowledge side, we, the United States have interfered in other countries’ elections for more than 100 years now, and sometimes when we haven’t liked the results of those elections, we’ve overthrown the government. So we shouldn’t act so outraged that Russia has been interfering in our election. That doesn’t make it right; no one should be interfering in other people’s elections. But let’s not be naïve here.
And on the prudent side, the last thing we need is another Cold War. People are worried that North Korea may at some point be able to launch a missile that can reach the United States. Well, Russia has more than 1,000 nuclear missiles that can reach us in 15 minutes and wipe us out several times over.
So please, let’s not reheat the Cold War.
But mostly I just want to applaud you for coming out tonight and I want to encourage you to keep demanding the truth.
Keep speaking the truth.
To the powerful. And to the powerless.
And as Orwell said, “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
So here’s to more truth-telling!
And here’s to more revolutionary acts!