Op-ed: Conservative 'optimism' for Trump normalizes dangerous rhetoric
Post-election attitudes have been loud, fear driven and have divided the country more than healed it. Conservatives are attempting to reach out to Clinton supporters across the nation, asking to “Give [Trump] a chance.”This optimism from the right is their attempt to normalize the rhetoric and fear mongering tactics that we were subjected to for a year and a half. Optimism can feed into normalization, and racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and classism are not normal.
We must call this optimism for what it is: a chance for the right to undermine the legitimate fears people have for their safety by capitalizing on the dangerous rhetoric that Trump and supporters are illustrating, a chance to suppress minority voices.
Diversity and intersectionality are interwoven within the fabric of our democracy. If we allow the plight of fascism and unique party factions to pluck away at these closely stitched threads, we threaten the safety and dignity of our Constitution. The rhetoric Mr. Trump and many of his supporters have embraced throughout the 2016 election has given voice to dangerous beliefs like racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia and classism.
Many Trump supporters are spooked by the mere thought of a liberal calling them one of the many “ism’s” and have gone to extreme lengths to defend themselves. I speak directly to those of you who find yourself in this predicament: I will give you the benefit of the doubt and take what you say for truth; however, by supporting Trump, you recognized all those things throughout the election and decided to remain complacent. For the millions of minorities, persons with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, Muslims and African Americans who can not afford the same privilege you flaunt, what do you say to them?
Mr. Trump has had more than one chance to apologize for the way he conducted his campaign and take as hard a stance on his supporters committing hate crimes as he did about Secretary Clinton’s emails, yet he has failed on both accounts. It was blind optimism that instilled the hope that Mr. Trump would correct his behavior as he prepared to assume the most powerful position not only in the United States but in the world.
Instead, Mr. Trump’s ideology has become abundantly clear as he begins to fill his cabinet. He has begun his transition to the White House by appointing Stephen Bannon, editor of Breitbart news, as Chief Strategist. Bannon has described himself as a leader of the alt-right, opposing immigration and “globalism.” In the New York Times, Breitbart was criticized for being “a hate site steeped in misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, white nationalism and anti-Semitism.” Under Mr. Bannon’s leadership, the site published articles titled: “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.” Most recently, the conservative news site published an article titled, “Wave of Fake ‘Hate Crimes’ Sweep Anti-Trump Social Media.” Yet a day later, the FBI a released a report citing hate crimes surging 6%, specifically against Muslim- Americans, in the wake of Trump being elected. Breitbart has made its way to becoming the Chief Strategist to the President-elect and Stephen Bannon himself will be helping to steer the direction of the country.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. -Maya Angelou
Following Mr. Bannon’s appointment, Mr. Trump appointed Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as his Attorney General. In 1986, Sessions once referred to the American Civil Liberties Union and the N.A.A.C.P. as “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.” Subsequently, the Senate Judiciary Committee, composed of Democrats and Republicans, rejected the nomination of Sessions to be a Federal district judge in Alabama for numerous racially insensitive statements he made during his tenure as U.S. Attorney in Mobile, Ala. If Mr. Sessions can not uphold the fundamental principle of the Civil Rights Act, a cornerstone of the Department of Justice, how can he be a fully functioning Attorney General when he has deep rooted racism interwoven throughout his resume?
Mr. Trump has also appointed Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), who has served on the House Select Benghazi Committee and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, to Director of the C.I.A.. As an individual who has had his fair share of controversies throughout his career, he aided in wasting nearly $7 million of taxpayers dollars on 10 separate investigations into the events of Benghazi, Libya. Secretary Clinton was cleared every single time of any wrongdoing. Pompeo also stood on the House floor on June 11, 2013, two months after the Boston Marathon bombings, and proudly claimed “the silence of Muslim leaders has been deafening” in the wake of the attacks.
These claims were entirely false and composed of misguided information rooted in xenophobia and ignorance. The Boston Bombings occurred on April 15th at approximately 2:49 p.m. However in his ignorance Mr. Pompeo failed to recognize, all on the same day within six hours of the attack, the Universal Muslim Association of America, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Council on American- Islamic Relations, Muslim Peace Coalition, Islamic Society of North America and Islamic Society of North America all spoke out against the terrorist attack on the same day. He has acted ‘extremely careless’ in refusing to recognize these organizations, even months after their statements condemning the attacks.
Pompeo, a man who has exercised not only poor judgment but also a xenophobic attitude, will guide the Central Intelligence Agency, surely carrying his bigotry with him to one of the most powerful agencies in our bureaucracy. If the 2016 Election has taught us anything, it is that qualifications take a back seat to fear mongering politics.
It is clear Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is more than rhetoric. It has translated into action as evidenced by the racists, sexists and members of the alt-right that he has carried with him as he transitions to the White House. It is these people who find it appropriate to forget that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution exists, that have expunged the idea of “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We must not simply forget the hate-driven campaign that Mr. Trump ran during both the primary and general election. By appointing hate-filled individuals who repudiate the fundamental principle of Equal Protection, he has failed to reverse course and be a self-described “President for All Americans.” Mr. Trump’s hypocrisy is comical and has made our nation look weak after decades of being the country who has set the example. Yet as Trump continues down a path of fear mongering tactics rooted in hate, we must stand fast, challenging him as part of over 61 million voters who oppose the dangerous and racist game he wishes to play.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel
Nick Lepore is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs.