Donald Trump is a threat to American democracy. It’s hard to disagree with that statement. However, too often we get hung up his tin-pot dictator theatrics while ignoring some of the less obvious side-effects of his presidency. A lot of the focus is on specific things that he has done to debase the credibility of the office or ways in which he has violated any number of sacrosanct values. But less attention has been given to how Trump has created a state of what sociologist Emile Durkheim called “anomie,” or “normlessness,” broadening the boundaries of what we ourselves deem acceptable.
His status as the greatest of evils has made the threshold for relative good extraordinarily low. All that’s necessary to be considered one of the “good guys” is to be against him. Media critic Adam Johnson dubbed this phenomenon “Trumpwashing.”
After 2016, the architects of the very same cruel Republican agenda that Trump has faithfully implemented—austerity, tax cuts for the wealthy, border militarization—were brought into the fold of the #Resistance.
Suddenly, everyone had warm feelings about George W. Bush, who lied to the American public to make the case for a $6 trillion war that was responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqis. All the pundits who helped sell that war were rehabilitated as “Never Trump” conservatives and given bully pulpits in major newspapers, magazines and networks.
The indecency of Trump has set the bar so low that we’re willing to accept the bare minimum of decency—or even just the appearance of it.
When he died, liberals eulogized war hawk John McCain as an “elder statesman” and a paragon of “civility,” apparently having forgotten who he was for his entire life. Mitt Romney—the sneering elitist who once called half of America parasites—was hailed as an “American hero” for his symbolic vote to impeach Trump.
Trump’s presidency has led to a dangerous and misguided perception that the problem is located entirely within his person…