In November 2015, Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post presciently warned How Trump is ‘defining deviancy down’ in presidential politics:
“Defining deviancy down.” That was the provocative title of a 1993 essay on crime written by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). He explained his concept succinctly a few months later at a breakfast of civic-minded New York City movers and shakers. “I wrote that there is always a certain amount of deviancy in a society,” Moynihan told the Association for a Better New York. “But when you get too much, you begin to think that it’s not really that bad. Pretty soon you become accustomed to very destructive behavior.”
Again, Moynihan was talking about the tolerance of crime. But as the 2016 Republican presidential contest drags on, his diagnosis fit politics in general and the campaign of Donald Trump in particular. Just when you thought the Big Apple billionaire couldn’t sink any lower, he does. He gleefully dances through the nativist, racist, misogynistic slop as if he were Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain.” And to make matters worse, Trump is rewarded for it.
Little could this Cassandra, cursed to speak true prophecies that no one believed, forewarn just how much Donald Trump would “define deviancy down” over the next two years after his column.
It has been a daily assault on the senses of tweeted insults and shameless lies, and outrageous behavior that previously was considered taboo and would have been a career-ending scandal for any other politician. For Trump, it just another day that ends in “y.” Trump’s goal is to overwhelm the senses through chaos theory. Americans have become numbed to the daily dose of scandal and are physically and mentally exhausted.
Trump’s sycophant cult of personality supporters — in particular, the conservative media entertainment complex — are seeking to normalize his boorishness and belligerence and utter lack of character, and conduct previously considered outside the bounds of normal acceptable behavior and common human decency. These sycophants, in particular the conservative media entertainment complex, the conspiracy theory fever swamp from which Donald Trump emerged two years ago, are also “defining deviancy down.” They are systematically destroying the norms of a civilized democratic society.