Trump’s first year in office hasn’t been as bad as it could have been. But it’s been ten times worse than most Americans realize. Much of the domestic damage can ultimately be undone by the backlash already building. We elected a sexual harasser, and this is the year women were finally heard on that issue. We elected a race-baiting, hate monger, and black women just elected a Democrat in Alabama. Sadly, the international damage will be longer lasting. As 2017 comes to a close, I’d like to list a few of the most damaging elements of this sad! presidency. This list will not be exhaustive because the internet doesn’t have enough room for that. And I’m not going to include things the GOP has been doing to itself (and us) for a long time. Trump was never the cause of a movement. He is the result of one.
I know Trump brought Christmas back (as much as I love latkes, if Jared were my son-in-law, I wouldn’t want to celebrate Hanukkah either), so I’ll limit this list to twelve items.
- Given the fact that many Americans spent the year fortifying their panic rooms, preparing go bags, and taking survivalist courses (and I’m just talking about the liberals), let’s start with something big: North Korea. In keeping with his family tradition, Kim Jung Un is all about self-preservation, and keeping his life good while keeping the lives of NK citizens miserable. One of his key tools is propaganda intended to convince his people that America is an evil empire out to destroy them. He invented imaginary barbarians at the gate and uses the fear of those barbarians to manipulate and control his people. Well, as of 2017, he doesn’t have to invent the barbarians anymore. Trump acted like one. The fire, the fury, the Twitter threats — all of these are just the fuel that a monster like Kim Jung Un dreams of. A gift that keeps on giving, Trump’s threats will prove useful to the Kim dynasty long after Donald has returned to his more natural confines; reality TV shows and bankruptcy court.
- Trump’s constant attacks on the free press have done some damage domestically. But much of that damage had been done during the years that led us towards Trumpism. And in many ways, the media has been energized and became stronger during 2017. But the international damage Trump has done is epic. Trump has not only failed to stop dictators and thugs from repressing, jailing, and killing journalists, he has actively enabled them. As the Committee to Protect Journalists reports, A Record number of journalists were jailed as Turkey, China, Egypt pay scant price for repression: “President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric, fixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media ‘fake news’ serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists.” As John McCain explained, Trump “must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters and silence the truth.”
- Trump has been terrible and dangerous for journalists (and by extenstion, the citizens who stood to benefit from their reporting). He’s been equally empowering to dictators and evil-doers who wantonly twist reality to meet their own ends. For Americans, Trump’s lies are so commonplace that he has become a punchline, not a president. But the attack on truth is no laughing matter abroad. The connection between Trump’s lies and those used by genocidal maniacs around the world is not merely theoretical. Consider this from the NYT: “In Myanmar, where international observers accuse the military of conducting a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya Muslims, a security official told The New York Times that ‘there is no such thing as Rohingya,’ adding: ‘It is fake news.’” When Trump was elected, we knew that America’s position as leader of the free world was coming to a close. Few imagined that we’d occupy a new position as leader of global thugs and evil doers. I only wish that were fake news.
- Everything about Trump, Putin, and Russia has been a debacle as the American president has been repeatedly duped and manipulated by his counterpart in Moscow (the most recent example, Syria). But there’s one area in particular where Trump has been helpful to his favorite hacker. Putin’s domestic sales pitch has never been that he is a really good guy and big fan of democracy. His pitch is basically, “Yes, I’m a tough guy, a cheat, a liar, and a dictator, but I’m your cheating lying dictator.” The big idea is that democracy and westerners are also liars and cheats who don’t really have it any better than Russians. Well, Trump has certainly helped to prove that (up until now) wildly false point. Putin is the master of propaganda. But these days, all he has to do is let Russian state TV play Trump un-edited.
- There have always been alienated guys in their parents’ basement who, if triggered, could present a threat to those around them. From Charlottesville, to nationalistic hate speech, to Muslim bans, to the Wall, to birtherism, Trump has empowered these guys to embrace their inner hate and come out of the shadows. Their sense of entitlement and feeling of empowerment will not end when the Trump presidency does.
- Roy Moore; an ill-informed, racist, misogynist, anti-gay, child molesting criminal who was shunned by many in his own party lost an election. That was good news. But he came damn close to winning. And Trump backed him all the way. And we know that this is not the bottom for Trump. There is no bottom.
- In his make-believe world, Trump likes to play the part of a guy who cares about law and order. In reality, no president in modern history has attacked American legal institutions more than he has. It started when he compared federal agencies to Nazi Germany and suggested a judge couldn’t rule fairly because of his heritage. And it’s gone downhill from there.
- Trump said he’d drain the swamp and hire only the best people. In reality, he’s only hired two kinds of people: Those who are wildly unqualified, and those who have a history of hating the agencies Trump hired them to run. It will take a long time to put all the pieces back together.
- Every sane person in the world understands the threat posed by climate change. Trump doesn’t. America’s leadership role on the most important issue of this era is non-existent. But there’s also the local damage. Trump’s pursuit of more coal mining jobs is harmful to those he pretends to represent.
- Trump’s anti-Muslim tirades and laws are a gift to terrorist recruiters.
- “This is not normal.” It’s a phrase we’ve heard repeated over and over for all of 2017. And for those of us who are adults, that point is clear. But my kids are 9 and 11. This is the first time they’ve really been aware of the news, politics, and the presidency. For them, this is all they’ve known. So it’s as normal as it gets. That’s obviously sad. And we don’t know what the long-lasting impact will be.
- It’s only been 11 months…