Say No to the New Normal

BEN TAUBER: History will regard the Trump administration as one steeped in scandal and void of morality. It stands as a testament to the very worst of us, a monument to the corrupt and the anti-intellectual.

The majority of Americans view the Trump administration negatively, yet it is often easy to forget just how ridiculous this presidency is. On the very first day of the administration, then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that the clearly-underpopulated inauguration crowd was the “biggest crowd in history.” The way in which the administration doubled and tripled down on this blatant lie should have rang alarm bells throughout the nation. Yet, people didn’t really seem to care. Trump supporters I talked to at the time either outright believed Spicer’s claims despite photographic evidence, or justified it by saying something along the lines of “Hillary has told bigger lies than this.” The mental gymnastics needed to come to this conclusion are astounding.

Unfortunately, this claim will probably end up being one of the least harmful lies the administration has told. A few weeks ago, President Trump denied the fact that about three thousand Americans died in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. That an American president would deny the true death toll of a tragedy to feed his own ego is appalling. But like almost every other one of President Trump’s baseless claims, it received much less attention than it should have, and the memory of it faded out of the minds of Americans not 24 hours later. This claim made by any other president would surely sink his approval rating and be the subject of congressional disapproval and media scrutiny. With President Trump, however, this is simply not the case. To the frustration of many, the endless scandals and countless lies have done nothing to dramatically change the president’s approval rating or the minds of his defenders in Congress.

One reason for this may be President Trump’s cult of personality. If the President is a master at one thing, it is the art of the con. As The New York Times recently revealed, Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, gave his son over $60 million to start his real estate business. Furthermore, Fred Trump repeatedly bailed out his son when his projects went bust and owned many of the projects Donald Trump claimed under his own dominion. Yet, since the ‘80s, Donald Trump has managed to convince the world at large that he was able to turn $1 million from his father into a multi-billion dollar real estate empire. And in 2016, he was able to convince blue collar Rust Belt workers that he, who has lived most of his life in a gold-trimmed Manhattan penthouse, cared about their plights and their futures.

His most fervent supporters believed him so much that, even when confronted with the reality that Donald Trump’s policies have brought them only marginal benefits with legitimate harms, they refuse to believe it. They believe Democrats are to blame for a lack of progress even though Republicans control both houses of Congress. They believe coal is coming back any day now. They believe the recent tax cuts will line their pockets and not those of their employers. Because they believe Trump’s lies, Fox News reinforces their beliefs, and Congressmen who know better echo Trump’s lies in fear of a primary, Donald Trump has become the true Teflon president.

In the wake of all of this, it is much too easy to fall into complacency, to accept this administration as the new normal. That is exactly what they want. The oversaturation of scandals works in tandem with a 24 hour news cycle to ensure that no one lie is focused on for any meaningful period of time. Do you remember “alternative facts?” The Bowling Green Massacre? Steve Bannon? Anthony Scaramucci? Do you remember President Trump admitting on TV that he fired former FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation? What about President Trump giving top secret Israeli intelligence to the Russians? Or the fact that President Trump arranged a potentially illegal hush money payment to a porn star to conceal his affair with her, then lied about the affair and the payment? How about when, on the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump openly mocked a disabled reporter? In normal times, these things would matter. They would be among the biggest scandals in the history of the presidency.

But these are not normal times, and these events seem to barely cross our minds. It is important to remember the degree to which our political process has been corrupted, as well as the moral and ethical codes that have guided our modern government. The upcoming midterm election is our opportunity to elect into power those who are willing to hold the executive branch accountable. Voting has never been more important. This November, the American people must say no to this administration to show that these myriad 24-hour scandals cannot, and will not be brushed aside.

Max Magid