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.
Today USA Today, the parent company of The Arizona Republic, declared war on Donald Trump for his deviancy in an editorial opinion. Will Trump’s lows ever hit rock bottom?
With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dismissed the president’s smear as a misunderstanding because he used similar language about men. Of course, words used about men and women are different. When candidate Trump said a journalist was bleeding from her “wherever,” he didn’t mean her nose.
And as is the case with all of Trump’s digital provocations, the president’s words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.
A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush.
This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt.
Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.
t should surprise no one how low he went with Gillibrand. When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers. Last October, Trump suggested that he never would have groped Jessica Leeds on an airplane decades ago: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” Trump mocked another accuser, former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.” Other celebrities and politicians have denied accusations, but none has stooped as low as suggesting that their accusers weren’t attractive enough to be honored with their gropes.
If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office. Let us count the ways:
- He is enthusiastically supporting Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing — and in one case molesting and in another assaulting — teenagers as young as 14 when Moore was a county prosecutor in his 30s. On Tuesday, Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: “Roy Moore will always vote with us.”
- Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.
- Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress “must end chain migration,” he said Monday, because the terror suspect “entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.” So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 — is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t. It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.
- A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly.
- Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory. He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit. He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing.
Not to mention calling white supremacists “very fine people,” pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.
The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.
The editors effectively call on Donald Trump to resign. Given his recent bouts of slurred speech and obvious mental deterioration, the 25th Amendment is also seriously in play. And Special Counsel Robert Mueller is closing in on obstruction of justice charges that will merit impeachment. No patriotic American should support the degradation of the office of the presidency andthe undermining of our democracy that Donald Trump and his sycophant supporters represent.