Robert Reich: Trump's Lies at the Republican Convention Can't Drown Out Americans' Lived Experience | Opinion

My wife and I have been warned that we may need to evacuate because of fires ravaging the Bay Area.

The climate crisis is largely to blame for these fires, which are growing in number and intensity every year. It's also to blame for the increasing number and virulence of hurricanes now hitting the Gulf and Southeast, flash floods along the Eastern seaboard and fierce winds across middle America.

Two tropical storms are now developing in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf has never before had two hurricanes at the same time. Both storms are moving toward Louisiana.

In early August, Illinois and Iowa were hit with winds of up to 110 miles per hour. Homes were leveled. At least 10 million acres of crops were destroyed. Many people are still without power.

Donald Trump isn't singularly responsible for climate change, of course. But he's done nothing to stop it. In fact, he's done everything he can to accelerate it.

This week, he'll be nominated for a second term. I doubt he or anyone else speaking at the Republican convention will mention his abandonment of the Paris agreement, his rollback of environmental regulations or his boundless generosity to the fossil fuel industry.

Yet I'll be thinking about all this, and in a newly personal way. So will many others, including, I suspect, some people who voted for Trump last time, who reside in the Gulf states, the eastern seaboard and the Midwest.

It's one thing to understand climate change in the abstract. It's another to live inside it.

I recently got an email from a woman living in North Carolina whose house was destroyed in a flash flood. She describes herself as a lifelong Republican who's now a "born-again environmentalist." She said she'll be voting for Joe Biden.

It's much the same with the coronavirus. The gross numbers tell a horrible story. Last Thursday alone, 1,090 Americans died of it. Only five died of it in Canada that same day, six the U.K., 12 in France, 16 in Japan, 16 in Spain and 10 in Germany.

Yet not even these numbers hit home the way it does when you know someone who has perished or nearly perished from this disease. I know two who have died. A good friend came close. Like me, a growing number of Americans are experiencing the coronavirus personally.

Trump isn't solely responsible. America's public health system was never up to the task of dealing with a pandemic. But Trump's stream of lies, denials and refusals to take responsibility have allowed the disease to ravage America.

If he mentions the pandemic at all during this week's Republican convention, he'll probably blame China and then claim the official numbers are exaggerated. Many of Trump's followers will believe him. But just as with the floods and windstorms and fires, an increasing number who have experienced COVID-19 personally have become hardened against his lies.

So, too, with the economic devastation that's come in the wake of the pandemic. Tens of millions of Americans are unemployed. Many are growing desperate. Almost everyone knows someone who has lost a job, or whose wages have been cut.

There's an old saying that "the personal is political." People understand politics most profoundly when it's connected to their own lived experience.

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference at the White House on on August 23 in Washington, D.C. Pete Marovich/Getty

At the upcoming Republican convention, Trump and his enablers can be expected to claim Democrats want to turn America into a socialist state. They'll issue racist dog whistles about "rioters and looters" in American cities. They'll conjure up "deep state" conspiracies. They'll lie about Joe Biden.

Some Americans will believe this drivel. But I suspect the lived experience of most others—including many who voted for Trump in 2016—will be more convincing. A threat to one's life or the lives of loved ones, or the imminent loss of a job, concentrates the mind.

After almost four years, we've felt the consequences of his rotten presidency firsthand. Trump's malfeasance is now more palpable than his fearmongering. The personal is political.

Robert B. Reich is an American political commentator, professor and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Reich's latest book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.