I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. Most are political or pseudo-political (The West Wing Weekly is fantastic for reminiscing about the Bartlet Administration). Like the overwhelming majority of sentient beings on the planet, the Trump Administration feels like a waking nightmare, each moment more frighteningly depressing than the last. Through all the batshit craziness, one phrase repeated on a new podcast bears repeating over and over again: “This is not normal.”
Jesse Berney’s podcast, The Trump Scorecard, begins and ends each episode with that phrase.
Each day, every day, we desperately need to remember this.
We especially need to remember it after President Trump’s first speech to Congress. The speech was filled with the same dark hatred of immigrants, the same thinly-veiled racism, and the same policy-free rhetoric that we have seen over the last 18 months.
But Trump read it from a TelePrompTer without screaming or talking about the size of his whatever. At the end of the speech, many in the press were tripping over themselves to declare what a great speech it was.
Wait, wut? This was NOT, in any way, a great speech. It was not even a good speech. The only parts that were remotely not insane were the lack of anger-spittle and an audience that refrained from chanting “Lock Her Up!” The speech was in no way “normal.”
It’s not normal to give a speech free of any policy details. After his applause line of repealing and replacing Obamacare, Trump gave empty platitudes in place of policy. There was no plan; not even the beginning of a plan. Unfortunately for the 20 million newly-insured under Obamacare, platitudes don’t cover lung cancer or pap smears.
And let’s not forget the racism. In rapid succession, Trump spoke about saving black and Latino children from terrible schools, then moved on to horrific violence in cities, and then highlighted the need to support a more robust police force. The rhetorical language, similar to that used in his campaign, links people of color to a monolithic hapless violent group who are in need of either a white savior or authoritative discipline. That’s not normal. That’s racist.
The very brief acknowledgment of anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant hate crimes at the beginning of the speech were overshadowed by blistering anti-immigrant language later in the speech. The anti-immigrant VOICE program that Trump wants to launch has eerie similarities to Nazi-era publications about crimes committed by Jews. Documenting and highlighting crimes by immigrants will breed fear and distrust of all immigrants, whether undocumented or not (not unlike anti-Muslim hate speech from this administration breeds disdain of all brown people, putting Indian-born engineers in lethal danger in an Austin Grill in Kansas).
Additionally, building a wall on the Mexican border ignores the basic facts about how most undocumented immigrants come to America (overstaying a valid visa), while focusing attention on ‘bad hombres’ who are brown. In addition to providing a convenient scapegoat for unemployed factory workers in the Midwest, a wall would be a colossal waste of money.
The press – both whacko-right-wing and mainstream – is desperately seeking to normalize President Trump. The bar for a “successful speech” has been set so low that policy-free race-baiting anti-immigrant rhetoric is considered a success if President Trump delivers it in a calm demeanor. So long as he looks Presidential and uses a Presidential tone, the substance of his speech can be ignored.
This is awful. This is scary. And this sure as hell is not normal.