The Normalcy of Donald J. Trump

The Normalcy of Donald J. Trump

This is #NotNormal.

In the weeks and months after the 2016 Presidential Election, this hashtag became an instant hit on left-wing Twitter. Conceptually, the hashtag went hand in hand with the anti-Bush “Selected, Not Elected” slogan. But this time instead of trying to delegitimize the way a President entered into office, the left wanted to delegitimize the everything for which the President stood. Donald Trump was #NotNormal. According to left-wing Twitter, Trump was so onerous, so boorish, and so divisive that the mere fact of his presidency was simply unacceptable to American Democracy.

Two years later and the Left has not slowed down in its hysteria over Donald Trump. Anyone that expected things to calm down after the election must at this point be quite disappointed after the last three and a half years of breathless anti-Trump coverage by the media. And despite Democrats doing well in the Midterms (maybe not #BlueWave but still respectably) things have not calmed down since. As it remains undoubtedly true that the left will continue to vehemently hate Donald Trump, it’s worth interrogating the rather fascinating claim that a duly elected President is somehow #NotNormal.

It’s not that there aren’t legitimate criticisms of Trump. He uses inflammatory rhetoric, he has had a hard time retaining cabinet members and staffers, he’s fond of “finessing” the truth to make himself look better, and some of his business relationships remain troubling. Even from a right-wing perspective, he has failed to deliver on many of his signature policy issues at the forefront of the 2016 campaign. Still, the #NotNormal hashtag popular among left-wingers on Twitter (garnering over 2 million impressions in the last week according to betrays a myopic understanding of the American cultural reality of the last thirty years.

A constant source of consternation on the left is Trump’s use Twitter to bypass the traditional media to get his message out to his followers directly. Although the content of these tweets can be difficult to defend, he is by no means the progenitor of social media in presidential politics. Not that you could discern that from watching CNN. Ironically, the Left hates Trump for using a form of communication designed to circumvent the mainstream, a technique pioneered by their golden boy, Barack Obama. In the 2008 election, Obama was able to garner an unprecedented following across social media. Far from being seen as contemptible, this was cheered by the left as a sign of the approaching Democrat hegemony. The left, we were told, was more effective at using social media, which skewers younger. Under these circumstances, the Democrats could guarantee a structural advantage in any campaign for generations to come.

Fast forward to the Era of Trump, and the left is no longer as sanguine about a President’s use of populist forms of communication. The use of social media to appeal to one’s base is now proclaimed as a threat to the republic and its guardians in the corporate media.  Much of the ongoing censorship of right-wing voices on social media seems to be aimed at limiting the spread of the message put forward by Trump and those who followed in his wake. But according to the left, we’re expected to believe that in 2018 harnessing social media for purposes of political organization is a bad thing.

Another way we are to believe that Trump is #NotNormal is his general boorishness. Between constantly insulting CNN, calling Stormy Daniels “horseface“, denouncing NFL players as ‘sons of bitches,’, Trump has a habit of making personal beefs into public affairs. And while this trait is somewhat unique to Trump as a President, it’s hardly unique to our zeitgeist. The cultural left has done everything it can to coarsen the discourse of society. It has taken every opportunity to make the “personal” and “political” indistinguishable.  That celebrities like Alec Baldwin or Robert De Niro are publicly condemning Trump is particularly rich when they embody the same New York cultural sensibilities as the president himself. It’s probably not a good thing for the republic that we have a President who is so comfortable using his office to spread insults. But the existence of an ever coarser and political popular culture was going to make a phenomenon like Trump inevitable. And as much as one might lament this fact, it is hard to take seriously such a complaint coming from the very media that is responsible for the degradation of decorum.

Hand in hand with his boorishness are Trump’s sexual peccadilloes. Trump, now on his third marriage, has had numerous affairs, most infamously with porn star Stormy Daniels. Certainly, marital infidelity is a character flaw to anyone of a more traditional mindset. However, Democrats fake outrage (or worse, genuine outrage) over this adultery is insulting to anyone not totally on board with stale partisan talking points. Democrats loved Bill Clinton in the 90s. When the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, we were told “It’s just sex”,  “they’re two consenting adults”, and “who cares what the President does in his spare time?.” The cultural left has spent the entirety of the 20th century gleefully chipping away at norms and standards of behavior surrounding matrimony. Marriage was “just a piece of paper” until homosexuals claimed they wanted to get married of course. Sex was “just sex” until the hedonism of Trump entered public life. Mind you, this is the modern lifestyle that the left has claimed they wanted to normalize, yet this time they’re horrified. Trump breaks nearly every standard of what used to be acceptable behavior and the left sputters, “How dare you!” in the tone of a 1950s chaperone. Don’t they know it’s “Current Year”?

Now the obvious answer from the left, when any of these objections are brought up, is to re-focus on policy. It is Trump’s policies that are #NotNormal, extreme, and dangerous. Yet this is, on its face, absurd. Trump has not done anything that any of the other 2016 Republican candidates wouldn’t have done, and many of his more controversial platforms (the “Muslim ban”, child separation at the border, etc.) are continuations of Obama era policies. His performance as President has been, in most respects, unimpeachably normal, to the point that disillusioned Trump supporter Ann Coulter has said that if we’re going to have a generic Republican President, she’d rather have Pence. The left might not want to acknowledge just how normal Trump is, but the disappointed reactions amongst those on the far right tell a very different story. This is simply what politics looks like the divided America of the 21st century.

As stated, there are legitimate criticisms of Trump. But if the left is going to carry on as if Trump is historically #NotNormal, it makes one wonder what world, or time, progressives think they’re living in. One presumably lacking the progress of the last 30 years. How many people swear or express “offensive” ideas in their day to day language? How many men over the age of 45 are on their second or third marriage? How many people are faithful to their spouse nowadays? And more importantly, why are these behaviors so widespread? The left has been pushing these behaviors as positives for a generation. Journalists, activists, Hollywood producers, and our media facilitate as much as they observe the decline of traditional morality.  For decades they laughed at the decline. Yet oddly, when the ne plus ultra of the new cultural order becomes the most powerful person in the world, they’re not laughing anymore. If nothing else, our decadent age provides the entertainment of watching the left self-immolate in the flaming path of the devil they helped summon.

But if Trump’s excesses are indeed normal, for both the American political class and the people as a whole, is there hope for our republic? Trump came to power with the slogan “Make America Great Again“, reflecting a deep desire among the electorate for a revival. Trump does not seem to be the person that can provide this revival but maybe the sentiment that he has encouraged can continue independent of his political career. But if the crude evils of men like Trump are to be judged as unacceptable, it will require a genuine spiritual awakening amongst the American people at large. Something we might hope for one day, but is entirely #NotNormal.

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