The Trump Effect



Since Trump’s improbable run for the White House, public and political discourse in America seem to be devolving. Trump himself was able to call immigrants rapists and “bad hombres,” demonize Muslims, criticize women’s looks, and talk about his inappropriate sexual advances – all without having a substantial effect on his popularity. Notwithstanding the interference of the Russians and James Comey as factors in the Trump victory, Trump and his supporters seem to have taken this fact as license to spout off any mean-spirited remark that comes to mind. I call this the Trump Effect.

Case in point are some of the comments Republican lawmakers have made about health care in their efforts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. For instance, Rep. John Shimkus questioned why pregnancy coverage should be required, and Rep. Roger Marshall said that poor people don’t care about their health anyway. More recently, after the House passed a bill that would allow states to opt out of coverage for pre-existing conditions, Rep. Robert Pittenger helpfully explained that people can just move to another state if they can’t get coverage. And Rep. Mo Brooks implied that getting sick was a moral failing that the “rest of us” shouldn’t have to pay for. Worst of all, Republican members of the House of Representatives voted essentially to deny health insurance to millions of Americans while keeping their own government-paid health plans.

The Trump Effect has not been limited to politicians. Across the country, Trump’s election has emboldened some Americans to dust off their swastika posters, shout racist epithets at strangers, and attack people wearing head coverings whom they think are Muslim. For example, not long ago, a man was removed from a plane for harassing Muslim passengers and asking them if they had a bomb in their luggage.

And speaking of airlines, the Trump Effect seems to have caused companies to say, “Screw it” in their approach to customer satisfaction. After the egregious abuse a man endured being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight, one would have thought all the major airlines would have run employee sensitivity training immediately. Instead, we keep hearing of more abusive behavior on the part of airline employees. Recently, an American Airlines flight attendant had to be reprimanded for her handling of a woman and toddler with a stroller. And just the other day, a young couple was threatened with jail and the removal of their children if they did not take their infant out of his car seat and give the seat (that they had paid for) to another passenger on an overbooked flight.

I honestly feel sorry for the writers of satire such as Saturday Night Live. People’s real life behavior has gotten so outrageous that it is hard to exaggerate for humorous effect. In fact, the situation in our country has gotten so awful that our comedians more and more have felt the need to play it straight. Jimmy Kimmel, for instance, made a heartfelt plea to lawmakers not to pass a law that would force families to watch their infant die because they couldn’t afford life-saving treatment.

Of course, Jimmy’s plea was met with compassion and restraint, right? Fat chance. Instead, we got deadbeat dad and right wing radio blabbermouth Joe Walsh saying, Sorry, Jimmy. I don’t care if your kid dies. I don’t want to have to help pay to save him. Yeah, I’m actually getting nostalgic for George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light” and his son’s “compassionate conservatism.”

The Trump Effect has also extended to alternate views of reality. Because Trump so often outright lies, members of his administration have been emboldened to do so. Remember Kellyanne Conway’s infamous “Bowling Green massacre”? Trump has peopled his Cabinet with climate-change deniers and shown his knowledge of history to be shaky at best. How else to explain his gaffes about Jefferson Davis and Andrew Jackson? The latest lies, of course, are about the effect the new health care law will have on ordinary Americans. The Republicans are hoping those lies hold until at least after the mid-term elections. Meanwhile, Trump, with a totally straight face, tells Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull that Australia’s universal healthcare program is better than the one in the U.S. No shit, Sherlock.

I don’t think I’m hyperbolizing when I declare that the Trump Effect is turning civilization on its head. Our rapidly descending standards for what is acceptable in a U.S. president are influencing the rest of American government and the society beyond. We need a return to norms of civility and kindness before it’s too late.


2 thoughts on “The Trump Effect

  1. Paul Infanger

    The left misunderstands Trump. While he was not my first choice either, I think we need to give him credit for what he is good at…negotiating. The attack on a Syrian airport had nothing to do with ISIS and everything to do with dinner conversation with China president XI. We now have the most Chinese influence of any president since Nixon. We’ll see how it plays out but I think The Donald may have outwitted the North Korean dictator.

    I cannot resist objecting to the term “climate change deniers.” This is nothing more than a propaganda term used by people with no knowledge of science. There are facts: temperature of the atmosphere is rising for the last 50,000 years (based on the MIT data Al Gore used in his film). Humans have not been producing significant amounts of CO2 for 49, 800 of those years. So we could at most be aggravating an existing problem and are not the cause. My industry (nuclear power) stands to gain considerably as the only means to generate 24/7 electricity without producing any CO2. But since the same people who are now clamoring for climate change action decided 50 years ago that nuclear was bad (because of bombs not electricity), they ignore the obvious technical solution. Until the left embraces all the data, even if they don’t like it, I don’t see why we should buy their position.


    • Paul, I respect your scientific knowledge and agree with you about the need to rethink nuclear power. However, the deniers, as I call them, are using their denial to push for deregulation on all forms of energy, waste dumping etc. This will not be good for the planet. Also, most respected scientists agree that human activity has had a significant effect on the warming of the Earth. As for Trump’s foreign policy, I agree that it remains to be seen what will happen. I would be delighted if Trump proved effective in getting North Korea to stand down in their aggression. I just don’t have much faith that it will happen.

      Furthermore, you do not address the main point of my post, which was that Trump’s victory has created a coarsening of public discourse to the point where people feel free to say and do just about anything they want. I don’t think that’s a good thing.


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