The Real Cost of Donald Trump
When progressives look at the Trump Presidency, many see deliberate sabotage. Anyone watching government closely would know that the flurry of executive orders in the first weeks of his presidency was simply the beginning of a months long process. Since the inauguration Republicans and the Trump administration have been quietly repealing various protections and regulations passed during the Obama administration and before. The Paris agreement withdrawal is an obvious example which has been all over the news, but the Dodd-Frank repeal vote in the House and the passing of HJR 86/SJR 34— a measure which permits internet service providers (ISPs) to sell their user’s browser history — have gone relatively unnoticed in the mainstream media. To a liberal, it seems like the policy sky is falling. Everything they came to expect out of their government is becoming uncertain, and many will likely vote for a correction candidate in the next election to combat the deep institutional change that they fear Trump is affecting.
But in my view, the loss of these regulations and protections is not our most pressing concern. As Trump himself has demonstrated with surprising alacrity, it is easy for a president to undo many of the actions taken by his predecessor with simple executive orders. In a constitutionally dubious move on his first day in the White House, President Trump signed an executive order asking government agencies to freeze regulatory enforcement, directly contrary to the existing legislation meant to guide their actions, and nobody batted an eye. If Trump’s reelection bid in 2020 falls short, a Democratic president would have wide latitude in reinstating regulations and government directives with little opposition. Damage will be done by the Trump administration, but with the bare minimum of a White House win the Democrats can undo a lot.
In the end, as all of us are beginning to notice, the real cost of Donald Trump is the absolute devastation he has wrought on standards of political decency in the United States.
One must only reference the litany of Clinton campaign ads to find an exhaustive list of Trump’s transgressions, but some notables obviously include attacking John McCain’s war record, suggesting that Megyn Kelley’s tough line of questioning was a result of menstruation, suggesting that Carly Fiorina was too ugly garner votes, tweeting that Ben Carson’s lead in the Iowa polls was due to corn-induced brain “issues,” mocking a disabled New York Times Reporter, promising that the US target the families of known terrorists, calling for a ‘total and complete shutdown’ of Muslim immigration to the United States, asking his supporters to assault prospective protesters at his rallies, lying about his relationship with David Duke, suggesting his support for punishing women who receive abortions, suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the assassination of JFK, questioning the validity of a decision rendered by an American-born judge on behalf of his Mexican heritage, encouraging Russia to launch cyber attacks against the DNC, suggesting that women who are victims of sexual harassment allow themselves to be harassed, telling his supporters that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton literally founded ISIS, and of course, bragging about sexually assaulting women and how his star status made it easier.
In 2012, a recording of Mitt Romney saying that 47% of people were determined to be dependent on the government and a poorly phrased debate answer (“binders full of women”) were enough to sow doubt in the minds of many independents. In 2004, an awkward scream was enough to weird people out on Howard Dean. Trump, in his campaign and in his presidency, has been immune to the consequences of his gaffes. The result of this bewildering trend? Crisis, and poor form, as well as bombshell screwups, have become normalized to the point where the public simply doesn't care.
After all of the scandal, and all of the nothing burger legislation passed by an entirely Republican government, 38% of voter still approve of the job he does. People have become so partisan that they have given up their standards of decency for winning, an undeniably troubling trend. When Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter the day before his election, even the news media seemed to doubt the magnitude of the fallout. When he ended up winning, Paul Ryan asked Gianforte to apologize and nothing more. Are we so lax in our commitment to the Constitution that not seating a candidate who assaulted a reporter for asking a fair question is too much to ask?
In the first month of Obama’s presidency, Hannity ran a segment calling the President pretentious for ordering honey mustard on his burger during a visit to a diner. Today, he and all the other Fox News anchors have failed to level any type of serious scrutiny on an administration plagued with scandal, instead periodically running stories continuing to attack Hillary Clinton. When the President fires the FBI director in charge of an investigation into his own campaign it would be great if our representatives could do something more than look worried. Do Republicans really hold the country to such a low standard that they will allow Trump to make us look like a fool on the international stage because they like having a Republican in the White House? You have the Supreme Court justice, what is your excuse now? Can we see more than one or two Democrats coming out to unequivocally denounce Loretta Lynch’s attempts to frame the Clinton email investigation?
If you ask me, the policy side of government is not where we should be worried. Rather, the clear decay in standards of decency in politics is one of the most ominous threats to our nation’s political and social culture in decades. When our leaders act like children and set poor examples, their behavior becomes acceptable, especially to children who have never seen anything else. This is dangerous, and restoring decency to American politics is an uphill battle that all of us must fight.