This is Not Normal

 

This is not normal.

 

This sort of reminder is really important. The modern political landscape lends itself very well to apathy. Most of the time it can feel like keeping up with the news is like drinking from a firehose with a teaspoon. Stories about outlandish remarks, reports on unresolved policy failures, investigations into foreign influence operations, shouting matches between talking heads about the tweet of the day when taken all at once can be so overwhelming that it is easier to just shut down and ignore it all. Turn off the television. Close Facebook and Twitter. Ignore those phone notifications. The silence of not knowing is much more relaxing than dealing with the storm of reporting.

 

But to choose ignorance here isn’t right. To choose to be uninformed, to shut it all out because it’s nicer that way is to accept the current state as ordinary. It is to accept that this constant torrent of horribleness is a fact of life, immune to public response and immune to the standards of service that is expected of those in positions of power. Yet we know this not the case. This perceived immunity from responsibility does not exist. There is proof that civic action and civic awareness undoubtedly has sway. Civic action was enough to protect the Affordable Care Act from a full repeal. It was enough to bring an end to the Trump Administration’s family-separation policy at the border. It has the power, should enough people remain aware and mobilized, to exert actual political pressure and bring about true policy change at the highest levels of our government. That is an inspiring thing, but it is also a vital element in checking the power of those at the top. Therefore, it is vital to repeat.

 

This is not normal.

 

It is not normal for the President of the United States to call a legitimate investigation into his own campaign an “illegal witch hunt” on his Twitter feed every week. Nor is it normal for the President to be implicated in a criminal conspiracy to break federal election finance law. Nor is it normal for the President to side with the adversarial leader of Russia rather than his own intelligence agencies regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

 

President Trump on Screen // Credit: Chip Somodevilla and NPR

 

It is unheard of for the President to claim that the opposition party somehow manufactured statistics about the tragically large death toll of Hurricane Maria. It is similarly unheard of for the President to repeatedly call all negative press “fake news” and the “Enemy of the American People”. It is extraordinary that the President has claimed over Twitter that he has “the absolute right” to pardon himself of any federal crimes. It is unacceptable for the President to call for the jailing of those who have investigated him or politically opposed him.

 

None of that is normal.

 

Even more crucial than this acknowledgement of abnormality by the President is the recognition that this behavior is not exclusive to him. Just as it is dangerous for the President to attack members of the FBI and his own officials in the Department of Justice, it is equally dangerous for House Republicans to demand the release of classified documents pertinent to ongoing investigations. Just as it is dangerous for the President to nominate a Supreme Court Justice with an expressed belief in broad presidential immunity from criminal liability, it is equally dangerous for Senate Republicans to bring that nominee to a confirmation vote without having access to over 100,000 pages of withheld records about him. Just as it is heinous for the President to give his official endorsement to a Senate candidate accused of sexually assaulting minors, it is equally as heinous for the Republican National Committee to restore its funding to that candidate’s campaign after those allegations came to light.

 

 

None of that is normal.

 

Therefore, while it may be easy to get lost in the deluge of scandal and anger that characterizes the functions of our government and the discourse of our politics, the task of being informed remains critical. Awareness, however difficult it appears, makes up for its difficulty in its ability to empower both the individual and the public at large. It enables one to remember how this landscape is temporary. It enables one to express themselves as an informed and passionate citizen of this nation. It enables one to strive toward a better, more constructive future. And it serves as a reminder.

 

This is not normal.

John Woolley