Donald Trump is a Normal Republican
In the past few months, I’ve seen pointed admonishments from political watchers on social media, both professionals and informed amateurs: don’t normalize Donald Trump.
The reasoning goes that, by placing Trump within the mainstream of American political life, or even tangentially abutting it, he is given an elevated platform from which to drop bombs of destructive narcissism on unsuspecting citizens. I am sure I have made this argument countless times myself.
But, I’ve come to believe we are being vigilant to the wrong danger. That theory too neatly absolves Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and the overwhelming majority of Republican members of Congress, who colluded on day one of President Obama’s term to, above all, obstruct this his every attempt to cooperate, and to govern. It absolves the many Republican governors who deprived expanded Medicaid access to their neediest citizens, rather than give this President a political “win.” It absolves a political party that has spent the past 60 years, not merely courting, but creating white racists, with myths of “wilding” Black teens, “welfare queen” tropes, and Willie Horton ads.
When looking at the Republican Party’s recent history, policies, philosophies and leadership, it is impossible to avoid one fundamental truth:
Donald Trump is a normal Republican.
By placing him beyond the pale, we only normalize the GOP. But, current GOP, and conservative thought leaders, have:
- Initiated four, entirely preventable, debt ceiling crises in the past five years;
- Repeatedly praised the “leadership” skills of autocrat, Vladimir Putin;
- Continuously depicted Islam as particularly, and inherently, incompatible with American values;
- Made forced transvaginal ultrasounds (also known as, “rape”) mandatory for people seeking abortions;
- Systemically, and openly, schemed to disenfranchise Black people;
- Actively promoted unhinged conspiracy theories from Birtherism, to Jade Helm, to Benghazi, to Death Panels;
- Openly supported secessionist movements like those propagated by deadbeat rancher, Cliven Bundy;
- Purposefully engaged foreign governments promising (or threatening) to undermine the foreign policy of the United States;
- Taken the hundreds year old, highly refined, common law precepts of self-defense and injected them with the racist radioactive spider cocktail of Stand Your Ground laws.
- Written obsessively about the notion of President Obama as a “beta male.”
- Nominated Sarah Palin for Vice President.
These are positions and actions that can only be placed within a penumbra of reason by understanding they are motivated by mean-spiritedness, willful ignorance and/or craven pandering to constituents who are also so inclined. This is mainstream Republican theory and practice, and to the extent Donald Trump has expounded on these things he has been completely in line with Republican thinking — if not his in his singular mode of expression.
When Donald Trump says, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal,” is he really outside of the GOP mainstreams willingness to court financial catastrophe for the sake of political points scoring?
When Donald Trump says pregnant people seeking abortions must face, “some form of punishment,” that’s, frankly, pretty mild for a party that has spent 40 years calling abortion “murder.” We punish murder don’t we?
When he invites Russian intelligence agents to spy on his adversaries, how very different is that than the 47 Republican Senators who sought to undermine U.S. diplomacy with Iran by directly engaging the Iranian government — and, in so doing, providing ammunition to Iranian hardliners?
When Donald Trump says of John McCain, “I like people who weren’t captured,” isn’t that in line with the prosperity-gospel-cum-political-philosophy of Paul Ryan and the other prominent Ayn Rand cultists of the GOP?
Of course, it provides some comfort to imagine that Donald Trump is an anomaly, a tumor that can be easily excised. And, perhaps, it provides some solace to members of the media, who can then put aside their own responsibility for engaging in 15 years of both-sides-do-it that has led us to this point. But, the reality of Trumpism is far more troubling. He isn’t a foreign virus infecting his GOP host; he is the natural fruit of its tree.
Donald Trump is a normal Republican.