Allowing for Donald Trump’s mangling of the English language and the many ways people were sexist toward and about Hillary Clinton while claiming they weren’t sexist, it may be that the biggest word of the 2016 election was “normalization”—complaints from critics that the mainstream media normalized Trump, and warnings from Clinton that Trump would normalize hate speech and discrimination.
Clinton and the critics were correct—but they also were wrong in one significant way, and that was the argument that Trump was and is not a “normal” Republican. For any Democrat to believe that is a grievous mistake.
Consider the newly minted Goodlatte Amendment. Representative Bob Goodlatte proposed a measure to reduce the independence of the Office of Congressional Ethics, and the House Republican caucus agreed, despite reported opposition from the party’s leadership.
He wants to bring it under the control of the House Ethics Committee and rename it the “Office of Congressional Complaint Review,” which makes it sound almost like it will discuss whether the bean soup is too hot and anybody suffers from pulled muscles.
There also would be no consideration of anonymous complaints because that frees people to make charges without fear of retribution, although whistle-blowing laws exist for that very reason: to protect those willing to risk all by exposing wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, on New Year’s Eve, the president-elect praised his Dubai business partner, and his Mar-A-Lago resort sold $500 tickets to enable party-goers to have access to him. President Obama’s ethics counselor called that “atrocious,” but Hope Hicks, the incoming White House director of strategic communication, said, “The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict.”
The office that Goodlatte and his colleagues are out to de-fang began under the leadership of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat. It continued under the speakership of John Boehner, a Republican who, two decades ago, literally distributed checks from the tobacco industry on the House floor during a vote over whether to end a subsidy to tobacco companies.
Nor is this the only example of Trump and his fellow Republicans taking the same stands. Trump did a great deal to foster the “birther” movement, but as recently as August, one poll showed 41 percent of Republican voters doubted that Obama was born in the U.S., and 31 percent wouldn’t take a position. Trump called for banning Muslim immigration, and exit polls last Super Tuesday showed that more than 60 percent of Republican voters in five states agreed with him, with the number climbing to 80 percent in Alabama—the home state of his attorney general nominee, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.
The media’s willingness to “normalize” Trump isn’t the problem. If anything, it was more of a problem that Clinton said, as she did in May, “My campaign is not going to let Donald Trump try to normalize himself,” and that Newt Gingrich said of Trump’s approach to his opponents, “He’s not normal.”
As Republicans go, Trump is normal. Agree or disagree with him, his policies have reflected what the overwhelming majority of Republicans want. For those who express doubts, the response and the proof are simple: they voted for him.