The more I considered this question the more difficult it became to zero in on a definitive and distinct answer. Actually, it became difficult to focus my thinking on the question itself. In our current political climate I find it nearly impossible to comprehend the previous hours’ worth of breaking news before the next story unravels, leaving my mind clouded, discouraged, and somewhat incapable of finding the emotional motivation to give a damn anymore.
Just days after the 2015 election many of us, “The Resistance”, began attending protest marches every weekend — early mornings and cold, exhausting days. We did not know how much of an impact we could make, if any, but we were doing something. How could we not! Every new scandal angered and energized us. We could not stand idly by as the madness issued. Yet, here I stand, only two years later, struggling to care at all. This, I realized, is the most dangerous aspect of the Trump presidency: We are becoming accustomed to this new America. Trump is becoming the new normal, and unless we actively fight the urge to give up and accept this normalization, it will only become more difficult to resist.
Perhaps the most dangerous practice that Trump has normalized is his declaration that the media is the enemy of the people for criticizing him, and any media coverage that does not portray him positively is “fake news”. Despite Trump’s claims that he invented the term, “fake news” has an extensive history that cannot be ignored. The term is commonly used to cast doubt on accredited news sources that call attention too opposing political positions or criticize the leadership in power, a strategy known as “lying press”. Historically, lying press was notoriously used by various German political parties, including the Nazi party, in order to create distrust towards the media and thus establish that the only trustworthy source that will communicate the truth is the party in power. This is especially dangerous because it creates “post-truth politics”, which arguably describes Trump’s America. Post-truth politics is a political culture in which facts and verifiable evidence are largely ignored in light of emotional appeal and fear-mongering. As his presidency progresses, Trump’s lies become more and more blatant and his base doesn’t seem to care. The Washington Post claims that in just 558 days, Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims, and the average number of false or misleading claims per day has increased from 4.9 claims to 16 claims throughout his time in office. The unwavering support from his base may seem inexplicable, but Trump has assured them that the media cannot be trusted — why should they believe the fake news story that Trump is a lier?
Donald Trump does have supporters who know that much of what he says is untrue, but many of them do not care. His other prominent political strategy, fear mongering, is perhaps the most significant reason why he was elected.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best […] They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Many of us laugh at this classically Trumpian quote for it’s sheer absurdity, but it’s crucial not to overlook it’s dangerous implications. Trump has built much of his political career on promises to protect Americans from immigrants, insisting that virtually all of them have malicious intent. He uses immigrants, especially Mexican immigrants, as a scapegoat for America’s problems, creating a common enemy to hate, fear, and blame, despite the fact that statistics show that immigrants are actually less likely to commit a crime than native-born American citizens. Not only does this false information incentivize racism, it badly hurts people who risk their lives in order too immigrate to America to seek asylum from violence or prejudice, to find work, or receive an education. Families are torn apart, people are deported back to their countries to face execution — and for what? So Americans can feel safe from a non-existent danger?
Why is Donald Trump bad for America? He has created a post-truth political culture where facts are insignificant, and raw emotion is the primary motivator for political policy. But the most dangerous aspect of this occurs if we allow Trump’s America to become normal. We cannot grow so disillusioned and disheartened that we give up fighting for the American values that we believe in. It is up to the people to determine whether Donald Trump is a chapter in America’s long and complicated history, or if Trumpism changes the fundamental characteristics of what it means to be an American.