As of Jan. 20, 2018, it has been a year into the presidency of Donald Trump. That sentence feels weird to write. It is not even really news; it has consistently been a joke by celebrities long before 2016, whether it was in The Simpsons or even an interview with Kurt Cobain. The majority of people did not even think it would happen; poll after poll said he would lose, and yet here we are. We are one year into the presidency of Donald Trump, and it is weird.
However, the reason why I think it is weird is a bit different from what others have said. A common argument that I’ve come across is that what is happening is that we are “normalizing” Trump. John Oliver declared on his first post-election show, “He is abnormal.” Senator Dick Durbin responded to his “s——-” tweets by saying, “I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.” Even typing into Google “normalizing Trump,” one will find plenty of results from all across the political spectrum of those who think that Trump is an anomaly.
What seems more frightening to me, however, is how compared to other presidents, Trump is quite normal. Take the “s——-” comment for example; this was a disgusting remark, only made worse by his insistence that we should let more people from Norway in (there is a reason why the Nazis talked about the “nordic race,” afterall).
However, compared to other presidents, his remark is surprisingly tame. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, for example, have both been recorded saying the “n word” numerous times, and Nixon was also viciously anti-semitic. We have had
Woodrow Wilson, who referred to the Oval Office as his “phrenology library” (phrenology being a racist pseudoscience based on skull measurements), and his Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, once remarked “Think of it! N——speaking French!”, when describing Haiti to a friend. Hell, we have had presidents who owned slaves, which is a pretty bad standard for African-American rights.
This standard is not just carried by what he says, but also by what he does. Numerous protesters being arrested at the J20 protests was most certainly bad, but again, this has happened before. During the ‘60s, the FBI had COINTELPRO, a series of often illegal operations against civil rights, feminist and socialist groups, and the FBI had even sent a letter to MLK saying that he should kill himself, ending the letter with the sentence, “You are done.”
Going back to Wilson, the Espionage Act allowed the government to arrest anti-war protesters and even presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, which is awfully similar to Trump’s suggestions of arresting political opponents. We have had presidents risk nuclear war before; Ronald Reagan helped nearly destabilize the balance of power with his support for the Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars.
Even the lying is not unique; as the Pentagon Papers showed, presidents as far back as Eisenhower have lied about our involvement in Indo-China and our role in rigging elections and appointing presidents that represent our interests (I guess Russia learned from the best, then).
Compared to all this evidence, all the talk of Trump’s “abnormality” in politics rings hollow.
Trump is a psycho, yes, but he is an American psycho. He is exactly what comes out of a radically individualist, hyper-masculine, historically racist, free market capitalist culture like ours.
This culture is one that has produced Alex Jones, Richard Spencer, Mike Cernovich, Paul Nehlen, Rush Limbaugh and an entire community of people who get their politics from white nationalist memes.
Who can say that Trump did not come from this? Our job as students in a particularly contentious area, that being campus politics, is not easy; but it needs to be done if we wish to keep our heads screwed on correctly.
The current establishment on the other spectrum, that being the self-declared “#resistance,” has collaborated with Trump on extended surveillance, taxes, and even keeping the wall, which makes it seem more like a loyal opposition than an enemy.
As Carl von Clausewitz said, pure resistance “completely contradicts the idea of war, because there would then be war carried on by one side only.” Any force that wishes to win must be willing to wage war; not making speeches of opposition while promoting appeasement backstage, but a total war on everything they stand for.
That means education on our history and how we got here, a clean break with moderation and appeals to “unity”, and a new, progressive agenda in all matters. One year after Trump, our war should be stronger than ever, and the fight starts here, at our own Bastille.
Colin Meehan can be contacted at email@example.com