The incontinent pet theory of Donald Trump

As much as some journalists may be trying to keep from normalizing Trump’s absurdly abnormal behavior, honestly, the volume of it just makes it hard.  It is quite simply human nature to adapt to that to which you are always exposed.  Donald Trump is like a 20-year old cat that just keeps peeing all over the house.  After a while, you just don’t even smell it any more.  But if your neighbors come over all they can think is “damn, this house smells like cat piss.”  Or if you go away for a week you come back and think, “damn does my house stink.”  But day in, day out, you just get used to it.

Right now, Donald Trump is an old cat (or dog) peeing all over the house and our media is mostly just inured to it.  Yglesias:

Donald Trump went on CNBC this morning, and, over the course of a wide-ranging interview, once again reminded the world of the most fundamental fact about his candidacy — he doesn’t really seem to understand any aspect of American public policy…

A few observations about all this:

  • In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhand racist remark about a sitting US senator would be a big news story.
  • In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhanded lie about the state of his personal finances would be a big news story.
  • To be totally honest, even in a normal election cycle a candidate exhibiting total confusion about the mechanics and merits of monetary policy probably wouldn’t be that big of a news story but it would at least get some attention.

Seriously. Stop. Take a breath. Now imagine if Mitt Romney had run exactly Mitt Romney’s campaign but then suddenly in mid-September went on television and called Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas for no reason. It would have been huge.

This year, basically nothing. Trump being kinda racist is a dog-bites-man story. [emphasis mine] After all, just yesterday Donald Trump Jr. shared a white nationalist meme on Instagram. Trump lies all the time, so that’s not a big deal. In fact, he lies frequently about the essential core of his foreign policy, and his business dealings pose such obvious and flagrant conflicts of interest and ethics problems that lying about his stock holdings doesn’t seem like a big deal. And of course Trump doesn’t understand what he’s saying when it comes to monetary policy — monetary policy is complicated and obscure and Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about on any other issue either…

But the truly scary thing is that Trump is redefining the concept of a gaffe out of existence. It turns out that if you just boldly repeat something often enough, it goes away as a story. We’ve become numb, as a society, to what Trump is doing. In the process we’ve normalized casual racism, intense personal insults as an approach to politics, and completely decentered the idea that elected officials should grapple with difficult policy questions. Half the crazy things Trump says or does barely merit a mention on Twitter, much less the front-page coverage they would have merited in previous campaigns.

More than anything else, the numbness that Trump creates frightens me.

We have a learned a lot this year about what you can get away with in politics if you are brazen enough. The answer is that you can get away with a lot. Whatever happens in November, that revelation won’t go away.

Meanwhile, Trump’s foundation is proving to be an absolute embarrassment and fiasco.  But nobody cares!!  Well, nobody except an intrepid reporter at the Post.  But seriously, this is so much worse than anything with the Clinton foundation, but hardly getting any coverage beyond the Post.  The media has so come to just expect awfulness from all things Trump that he can get away with an awful amount of awfulness.  Donald Trump is ruining all the carpets.

 

 

 

 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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