One of the stranger developments in Republican politics this year is the campaign against tech giants and social media companies, which the right sees as conspiring against conservatives. Some GOP members of Congress and prominent Republican media figures have spoken openly in recent months about government regulation of social media as if they were “public utilities.”
Donald Trump, who loves nothing more than embracing conspiracy theories that make him look like a victim, has been only too pleased to endorse the underlying idea, and he’s toyed publicly with the idea of government regulation. The topic came up briefly at yesterday’s White House press conference.
Q: You expressed some concerns about social media companies unfairly censoring conservatives during the election. Do you anticipate working with Democrats to regulate these companies, or are you satisfied with the way things are?
TRUMP: I would — I would do that. Yeah. I would look at that very seriously. I think it’s a serious problem. At the same time, you start getting into speech; that’s a very dangerous problem. That could be the beginning. So it’s very dangerous.
Believe it or not, I’m one that really likes free speech. A lot of people don’t understand that. But I am a big believer. And when you start regulating, a lot of bad things can happen.
But I would certainly talk to the Democrats if they want to do that. And I think they do want to do that.
There’s a lot wrong with this, but it was those last few words that stood out as especially striking. The president believes Democrats want government regulation of social media? I’m obviously not in a position to speak with authority as to what Democratic policymakers are prepared to negotiate with the White House about, but I’m aware of zero Dems who’ve expressed even passing interest in this.
At the same press conference, a reporter asked about funding for Trump’s dream of a giant wall along the U.S./Mexico border. The president insisted, “Look, I speak to Democrats all the time. They agree that a wall is necessary. Wall is necessary. And as you know, we’re building the wall. We’ve started.”
Putting aside the fact that the administration hasn’t “started” building a wall – this is one of Trump’s favorite lies – the number of Democrats who believe a wall “is necessary” is effectively zero.
The larger point, of course, is the focus on a group of folks Bloomberg News recently described as “anonymous validators” – groups of people, none of whom the president is willing to identify, whom we’re supposed to believe secretly agree with Trump about his agenda.
A couple of months ago, the president said “even Democrats agree” with him that the entire Russia scandal has been “discredited.” At the same time, Trump also said Democrats disagree privately with surveillance of Carter Page, the president’s former Kremlin-linked foreign policy adviser. And for good measure, Trump said Dems also believe it was “very unfair” for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal.
As of yesterday, Trump now wants us to believe that Democrats are also with him on a border wall and government regulation of social media.
In the president’s imagination, these people apparently exist. But for those looking for them in the real world, I’d recommend not looking too hard.