A sound strategy for this moment and the foreseeable future will resist the normalization of Trump; if he fit on the spectrum of what we consider the politically accepted bounds of “bourgeois democratic” governance, I might think otherwise. But he – as well as Bannon and Sessions and others – don’t. They present a threat to democratic governance the likes of which we haven’t seen. Thus we should do nothing to normalize him.
What is more, a significant section of the public question the legitimacy of this administration. It’s not something that we on the left have a franchise on. Which should come as no surprise. After all, Trump didn’t win the popular vote, the role of Russia in meddling in our elections is far from settled, and Trump’s rhetoric and actions so far have left many still wondering if he has what it takes to be president.
So why would we normalize him at this juncture? Because his speech earlier this week had a different tone? I don’t think so. For one thing, the change in tone is explained largely by the widespread opposition to Trump and his low polling numbers. What other choice did Trump and Bannon have? Full speed ahead? I don’t think so. To suggest that it was product of the artfulness of Trump and Bannon is to turn effect into cause. Furthermore, the speech’s tone can’t be severed from its substance, and the latter was awful on nearly every count.
Which brings me to my beef with the much debated comment of CNN analyst Van Jones. He mentioned none of this. Nor did he make plain that the father of the soldier who was cynically memorialized in Trump’s speech chose not to attend the event because he blamed guess who – Trump – for his son’s death. Instead, Jones said Trump became “presidential.” In doing so, he normalized Trump; he gave him a legitimacy that he hasn’t yet acquired. It shouldn’t come that cheaply.
As I see it, resisting the normalization of Trump isn’t a posture of disengagement, of standing apart, of rhetorically shouting from the sidelines. It conforms with the thinking of millions of people and rests on a broad awareness of the unique and unprecedented danger that this administration presents to our country’s democratic fabric and progress. It is a particular approach that challenges Trump – his rhetoric, policies, and legitimacy – at every turn and in every arena of struggle.
Its charge isn’t to search for common ground with the Trump White House, but to defend democracy (broadly understood), join with the immediate targets of Trump’s attacks, and advance a clear and compelling alternative to Trumpism. Its strategic underpinning lies in the formation of a broad, democratic, multi-racial, multi-class, multi-national people’s coalition, while it resists, at the same time, sectional thinking and approaches, such as we saw with some of the building trades. It’s mindful as well of the overarching importance of next year’s election. And, not least, it takes advantage of any rifts in the ruling coalition and dominant classes.
If there is a slogan that captures its spirit and politics, it’s “All for One and One for All.”