Last June, when President Donald Trump launched a hateful Twitter attack against MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse responded with a tweet of his own saying, “This isn’t normal.”
This past January, when the president of the United States taunted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un about the size of his nuclear button, CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out that “none of this [is] normal.”
Just a week ago, as Trump and his Republican enablers made a concerted attack against the FBI, Mike Allen’s Axios newsletter featured the headline “The big picture: It’s not normal.”
Almost every day, the president and his administration give us all a reason to say, “This is not normal,” and yet nothing seems to change. If anything, the situation is getting even worse.
In just the first few weeks of 2018, we have had the Fire and Fury fallout, the “shithole” and shutdown spectacles, the Stormy Daniels affair, the president declassifying information against the recommendations of the Justice Department and the FBI director he appointed, and, most recently, the White House chief of staff defending an alleged wife-beater as a “man of true integrity and honor.”
Every day, millions of Americans are told by reporters, commentators, columnists and elected officials that this is not normal, and yet Trump’s approval rating with Republicans remains at almost 90 percent.
You see when Trump Country hears someone say, “This isn’t normal,” they think, “Good, that’s what we signed up for.”
The 2016 election represented a rebellion against normal, and the undercurrent of anger at the Washington establishment that propelled Trump into the Oval Office has not subsided.
I spent years crafting messages for Republicans and conservatives railing against the broken status quo in Washington, tapping into the very real sentiment that the nation’s capital had become a place where the voice of the average American was no longer heard, where it was effectively buried by party bosses and special interest influence.
Voters fed up with normal revolted by choosing Trump over that living embodiment of establishment politics, Hillary Clinton. If things had proceeded “normally” after the election, I suspect Trump voters would be apoplectic because they want radical change, not a continuation of the previous course.
In Trump World, the cries of “This is not normal!” are viewed as validation. Their attack against the status quo is working. Washington is being shaken to its very foundation and Trump supporters are thrilled.
We need to do a more explicit job explaining why Trump’s actions pose a threat to our country and its citizens.
It’s time to retire the phrase “This is not normal” and define Trump’s actions in terms that more directly describe what is really happening right now. Normal went out the door on Nov. 8, 2016. The president’s actions are dangerous. And we need to do a more explicit job explaining why Trump’s actions pose a threat to our country and its citizens.
The next time Trump teases a nuclear war with North Korea, don’t dwell on normalcy or precedent. Lay out the grave danger to American lives and families that a war with a nuclear power would represent.
The next time Trump ignores the advice of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies or attacks a judge, highlight the terrible consequences that could come from politicizing our justice system.
We can all agree that Donald Trump isn’t normal. But if our republic is going to survive his presidency, we need to start focusing on why he is dangerous.
Kurt Bardella is a news columnist and a contributor to USA Today and NBC THINK. He is a former spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa, then-Sen. Olympia Snowe, then-Rep. Brian Bilbray, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @KurtBardella.
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