PHOENIX — There are now two definitions of truth in the United States. The first is that a truthful statement is one that conforms to facts or reality. By this standard, President Trump is a serial liar.

The second is that truth is “telling it like it is,” or speaking in a direct, unvarnished way without regard to political correctness or the offense it may give. By this measure, for millions of supporters, Trump is the most honest president ever.

The United States has already become a post-truth society. Telling it like it isn’t has become a form of truth. That’s a nation in which chaos is more plausible because the ability to make rational decisions is diminished. Signal and noise can no longer be distinguished.

The center, where it was long held that elections are won, evaporates. Violence becomes more likely because incomprehension grows across hardening lines of fracture. It may well be that elections, as with the last presidential race, are now won at the extremes.

In Arizona, where Trump’s presidential campaign went from joke to winning proposition in July 2015 with a speech in which Trump said Mexicans were “taking our money” and “killing us,” the honest-man Trump view resonates. Trump was always about language. It didn’t matter that he was a loose cannon. He connected with the widespread disgust at the political class and the media. This was his winning intuition: that he could triumph as the subversive plain-speaking outsider.

Trump had that “kind of bluntness and occasionally even crass language which, if nothing else, at least meant authenticity,” said Jay Heiler, a lawyer considering a run against Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a rare Republican critic of Trump. “The president just hit a lot of nerves that a lot of conventional politicians didn’t even know were there.”

Those nerves still tingle. Nine months into the presidency, the support of Trump’s base remains fervid. I am often asked whether I believe that Trump will be impeached. I’ve taken to responding that it’s more likely he’ll be a two-term president. I’d put the chances of impeachment at under 10 percent and of his re-election at about 25 percent.

That’s partly because the Democratic Party has not yet begun a serious reckoning with its defeat last year. It hasn’t grasped the degree to which it lives, still, in a coastal echo chamber of identity politics and Trump-bashing. Just being anti-Trump won’t cut it. As Chuck Coughlin, a Republican political consultant who once worked for Senator John McCain, put it to me, “Somebody who speaks to common-sense American values — that is what the Democrats need.” I’m not sure who that person is, but I am pretty sure she or he does not reside in New York, Massachusetts or California.

Coughlin went on: “A Democratic Party that can’t tell me how many genders there are, that ain’t flying in this country.”

American fracture is the nation’s overriding condition. It keeps widening. Jeff DeWit, the Republican state treasurer of Arizona, picked up Trump at the airport for that 2015 Phoenix rally; he remains an ardent fan of Trump’s “movement of people dying for something different.”

His deputy, Mark Swenson, told me: “America was formed by a bunch of people who just wanted to be left alone.”

For that, guns help. “Bad guys have guns, so good guys should have guns, too,” DeWit said, rejecting my suggestion that the recent American carnage in Las Vegas showed the need for stricter gun laws.

Trump winks at white supremacists, thrives on confrontation and debases the Oval Office. But it would be a huge mistake to conclude from this that his defeat is inevitable; or that his supporters do not include millions of decent, smart Americans who just view the world differently. Americans who feel culturally alienated from the globalized metropolis (and sense that their worldview elicits contempt in a Democratic Party that often seems to have lost touch with ordinary Americans).

Heiler, the pro-Trump lawyer considering a Senate run, turned to the president’s campaign against football players, most of them black, who refuse to stand for the national anthem. “Many African-Americans are focused on a particular set of facts and circumstances” that “drive that conduct, that protest,” Heiler said. “But when many other Americans see it, and Americans of all races,” they think “gosh, these guys all have it pretty good. You know they make a really good living, playing football. This country’s been really good to them. And so, even if they have an ax to grind, they shouldn’t grind it against the country or its symbol or its anthem.”

Heiler said he wouldn’t condemn the protesting players’ choice, even if he disagreed, but “there’s simply no getting around that when you make that choice you’re going to alienate a lot of Americans.”

Now the vague particular “circumstances” alluded to by Heiler includes gross police brutality against black kids and the history of oppression of African-Americans. Players who protest are exercising a fundamental American right. But yes, they are “going to alienate a lot of Americans.” Trump, at some level, is going to win this argument.

An overriding lesson of 2016 for liberals is that without hard-nosed realism about the state of the country and Trump’s talents, you lose. And that’s the truth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *