Since the election of Donald Trump on Nov. 8th, I have not written a single word for the Opinions Section of The Miscellany News (a publication for which I have now written for over a year and a half). While I have attempted to chalk up this inaction to the dearth of articles our section has received over the last three weeks, the truth of the matter is I felt (and still feel) like I had (and still have) nothing intelligent or productive to say about what’s happened.
For weeks, I mulled over what iota of originality I could offer in an analysis of Trump’s (alleged) establishment-shattering rise to the presidency. Where does one even start?
I could reiterate my belief that Donald Trump’s forced entry into the realm of mainstream politics must not, must never become normalized under any circumstances (unless he irrevocably alters his rhetoric and positions which, given recent events, doesn’t seem likely). I could snidely remark that I’ll give Trump as much of a chance as Republicans gave Obama in 2008.
I could argue that his Cabinet appointments reflect not only a break from his oft-repeated campaign promise to “Drain the Swamp,” but a renunciation of any form of bipartisan solidarity. As Julie Pace and Josh Boak of The Washington Post reported, “So far, the president-elect is tapping people with deep ties to Washington and Wall Street as he fills out his Cabinet, turning to two power centers he vilified as greedy, corrupt and out of touch with Americans during his White House campaign … Two of Trump’s early picks are wealthy financial industry insiders with ties to the kinds of institutions he railed against as a candidate [Elaine Cho and Jeff Sessions]” (The Washington Post, “Trump’s Cabinet: ‘Draining the swamp’ or diving right in?,” 11.30.2016).
I could deride his appointment of white nationalist and Neo-Nazi dog whistler Steve Bannon to Counselor of the President, a move that tacitly brings the toxic, racist politics of the Breitbart News Network into direct contact with the White House.
I could slam Trump for his egregiously irresponsible phone call to the President of Taiwan on Dec. 2nd, eschewing 40 years of diplomatic precedent and drawing the ire of the Chinese government. I could posit that this move, coupled with Trump’s cozy relations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the United Kingdom’s Nigel Farage, foreshadows an administrative embrace of potential international discord in the name of protectionism and “economic nationalism.” I could further maintain that the rise of authoritarianism within the United States must be viewed in a global context, especially considering the rise of far-right parties across Western Europe.
I could contemplate the idea that Trump might inevitably lose interest in the presidency and resign (or, as Professor Allan Lichtman of American University predicted, that he will be impeached). I could then deconstruct the notion that this would be a better situation for the country’s marginalized people. I could further remember that Governor Mike Pence has historically expressed support for gay conversion therapy, effectively legalized discrimination against queer/trans people and vociferously fought for defunding Planned Parenthood. I could recall arguing this point to my father about this very topic, when he said, “At least Pence [in comparison to Trump] is competent,” to which I replied, “Exactly my point.”
I could remind readers that the narrative of white working class people being the sole impetus behind Trump’s victory erases the complicity white folk as a whole had in his ascent. According to the Pew Research Center, “Trump won white voters by a margin almost identical to that of Mitt Romney, who lost the popular vote to Barack Obama in 2012 … White non-Hispanic voters preferred Trump over Clinton by 21 percentage points (58% to 37%)” (Pew Research Center, “Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education,” 11.09.2016).
I could urge folks to demolish the idea that poor white factory workers in Wisconsin were any more responsible for Trump’s rise than my well-educated white grandparents in New Jersey.
I could further implore readers to remember that Trump voters, on the whole, had higher incomes than Clinton voters. I could say that the oft-repeated bromide that this election was a working-class rejection of elite, East Coast liberalism necessitates further scrutiny too. The Guardian reported right after the election (using data collected from the CNN’s Edison national election poll), “Broken down by income bracket, 52% of voters earning less than $50,000 a year–who make up 36% of the electorate–voted for Clinton, and 41% for Trump. But among the 64% of American voters who earn more than $50,000 a year, 49% chose Trump, and 47% Clinton” (The Guardian, “White and wealthy voters gave victory to Donald Trump, exit polls show,” 11.09.2016).
I could contend that voter suppression must not be ignored, either. I could echo the words of Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote, “Jill Stein can’t call for the recount of uncast votes, but there were clearly thousands of them as a result of voter-suppression measures … In 2014, according to a Wisconsin federal court, 300,000 registered voters in that state lacked the forms of identification that Republican legislators deemed necessary to cast their ballots … In Milwaukee County, which has a large African-American population, 60,000 fewer votes were cast in 2016 than in 2012” (The New Yorker, “The Real Voting Scandal of 2016,” 12.12.2016).
I could pensively consider the future of this newspaper in a country ruled by Trump. I could recall the words of Jelani Cobb, who wrote, “A Trump Presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States, but the consequences for the rights of journalists around the world could be far more serious. The United States’ failure to uphold its own standards would embolden dictators and despots to restrict the media in their own countries. This appears to be of no concern to Trump” (The New Yorker, “Protecting Journalism from Donald Trump,” 11.29.2016).
I could remember Trump’s tweet (I know, I know, I know I should stop looking at his Twitter), “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag–if they do, there must be consequences–perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” (Twitter, 11.29.2016). I could further remember the historically chilling effects that silencing domestic dissidents have on the health of a democratic republic.
I could pat myself on the back and say I’ve done my part for writing this column to an audience of predominantly left-liberal college students.
I could then remember that putting final edits onto this column and sending it off to print is only the beginning of the work that needs to be done, not the end.
As the election slowly fades from nightmarish catastrophe to tense, uncertain reality in the crevices of American collective consciousness, there is one ever-resonant truth that has stayed with me since the election was called: productive outrage can never and should never end.
I have come to further realize that silence is simply not and will never be an option.
While progressives should be aware of what New Republic’s Eric Sasson calls “outrage porn,” the efforts to prevent Trump’s normalization must and should continue, loudly, well past Inauguration Day. What that means for my role as the Opinions Editor of a newspaper at a liberal arts college of 2,450 students in a blue state…I’m still figuring that part out. On the morning of Dec. 3rd, I read an article in the New Yorker by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About.” Adichie’s words provided me with a path forward: as an artist, as a writer, as an editor, as a student, as a citizen.
Adichie wrote, “Now is the time to burn false equivalencies forever. Pretending that both sides of an issue are equal when they are not is not “balanced” journalism; it is a fairy tale—and, unlike most fairy tales, a disingenuous one … Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this.”
I remembered it does not have to be like this.