The new normal after Nov. 8, 2016 has been anything but “normal.” With the election of Donald Trump as president, and the reality of his administration settling in, the game of politics has changed completely.
Breaking news alerts — once shocking — are simply a hallmark of Trump’s America. Journalists have spoken openly about the unprecedented changes that have come with Trump’s election, and will continue to do so until they’re blue in the face. Rife with scandals, arguments and allegations of corruption, this new “normal” is hard to keep up with.
For many faced with the reality of the Trump administration, cynicism is the next-best coping mechanism. Blunders on the global stage and the threat of nuclear war lead us to simply shrug our shoulders, resolved to the reality that things will indeed never be the same
And so, in the darkest moments of Trump’s presidency, the brightest moments stand out starkly. The economy and unemployment are both doing well. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was widely seen as a conservative victory. In addition, the president’s shocking deal with Democrats on the debt ceiling was enough to create optimistic headlines, prompting concern over where Trump’s loyalty truly lies.
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For those plagued by pessimistic news alerts, these brief moments have become rallying points. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to help prosecute a man charged with the murder of a transgender teen drew shocked praise. Seemingly defying his famously anti-LGBTQ+ stance, Sessions was hailed as an unlikely hero in the fight against transphobia.
But these bright moments are far from untarnished. Rather, they are shades of gray in an increasingly dark administration. Though relatively brighter than a border wall or ban, these moments shouldn’t evoke any sort of hope within us — they should terrify us.
Sessions and Trump aren’t heroes for being decent human beings. If anything, these bright spots remind us that, most of the time, they are nothing close to decent.
Sessions’ intervention in the Johnson case does nothing to erase his roll-back of transgender protections and hardline stance on immigration. Similarly, Trump’s deal with Democrats hardly even touches the innumerable faults of his character and political acumen.
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The bar has sunk far too low. We have come to expect the worst from the Trump administration. As a result, any attempt at a balanced, functioning government is met with undue praise, peppered with questions as to the true nature of Trump’s character.
With the volatility of the current administration, guessing at Trump’s core values is counterproductive. But, in a time when every action is unprecedented, taking a “win” in these smaller moments can be our only consolation. Against our better judgement, we pray that this brief moment of hope is — somehow — indicative of a larger trend.
But this perspective isn’t sustainable, nor should it be. Instead of insisting on Trump’s misunderstood character, or the “window” these moments open into it, we should evaluate his actions by the same standards used for previous administrations.
It’s not who you are underneath, after all, that defines you — it’s what you do. And Trump’s actions, undoubtedly, speak for themselves.
Julia Brunson ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in history.