Recently my son and I were discussing Donald Trump. We both detest the man, and cringe if our political opinions align with something Trump says. But my son is young. He's an optimist. When I saw the rally on CNN in 2015, before Trump had even announced his intention to seek the nomination, I told my son I was worried because he would win. My son didn't believe it. And later, when Trump single-handedly decimated the Republican leadership pool for a generation, I told my son I thought he'd win the election. Despite my assertion, we were both astounded when he actually did.
Now, not quite two months in, my son is sure that despite everything, Trump can't ruin America. On most things political, I defer to him. He knows history, the constitution, the actual workings of the political machinery. He loves America. Admires the political system. He's a smart kid. But on Trump, he's wrong.
We all know that Trump is an anomaly. The rules of basic human interaction and decorum don't apply and obviously neither do the political conventions that have helped shape the western world as we know it. Yes, Trump can ruin America. In fact, he has the power to ruin the world.
On one hand, we have the GOP, giddy with power, acquiescing to Trump and (with a few exceptions) falling all over themselves to defend the indefensible. To my mind, Trump is always indefensible. As ad hominem a statement as that might be -- it's my blog and that's how I feel. These Republican politicians seem eager to stand by their leader regardless of how hapless his moves and bizarre his behavior, applauding politely from the sidelines at announcements that should make them pause.
Despite Trump's relatively normal demeanour during a joint address to congress, he is both an enigma and a threat by virtue of his capricious and unstable personality. And let's remember who lurks behind his curtain. While some of the people who Trump has surrounded himself with are not in league with the devil, more are. Those who see themselves as simply serving their country, are not strong enough personalities to challenge the new status quo.
On the other hand, so many political actions are in fact, reactions. Rather than being sound policy, some laws and even entire belief systems are a response to past policy. Germany today, with its open borders and extreme hate laws, is still reacting to Hitler and its Nazi past. One can argue whether the law against Holocaust denial is good for preventing hate or bad for assailing free speech, but it exists because of Germany's history.
Within the confines of law and politics, I don't believe that Trump alone can ruin America. I do believe that because he is extreme in everything he does, reactions to him are also extreme. As time goes on, regardless of his stance on issues, moderate people all over the world, not wanting to be tied to his brand of 'conservatism' will edge further and further away from positions that Trump taints by holding them. People whose vision is already decidedly to the other extreme, will be emboldened, perceiving their views, regardless how extreme the other way, as being the only decent and respectable ones.
To begin, Trump has destroyed the possibility of discussing borders and immigration rationally in the same way Nazism prevents Germans from taking anything less than its polar opposite stance. And with Trump, that was just the campaign. The first week's work solidified it and it only gets weirder from here.
Trump alone can't change America or the world, but strange and extreme alliances are bound to form as part of the 'resistance' to Trump. The societal shift that causes, and the changes it brings, will be no better than the world the resisters fear that Trump will foist upon them, but at least they will be able to feel good about themselves.