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Trumping the Norm

On a daily basis we have, and continue to be, bombarded with polarizing extremist actions and rhetoric. Comments and actions once thought to be an extreme demonstration of political and sociological ideals are now as regular as an everyday cup of coffee. The frequency of these occurrences is desensitizing, causing smaller and more indifference each time it occurs. This invites the acceptance of these extreme notions to become a part of daily discussions. Finally culminating in debates where prejudice and elitist comments are discussed as if it were part of the regular political discourse. President Trump’s comment on the immigrants from Africa and Haiti, “why are we taking people from these shithole countries?”, is discussed as an everyday affair simply because it is becoming the norm.

Trump is not the only social leader normalizing extremism. Nor did this gradual acceptance begin with Trump, though he is its poster boy. The acceptance of his rhetoric and behavior as a basis for his campaign was established by the formation and prominence of the Tea Party. “Don’t Tread on Me”, from the beginning, has ignored the majority of what we believed to be acceptable discourse with loud and brash comments. They used this rhetoric to gain notoriety for being the party which speaks “what the people are afraid to say”. This hyper-conservative movement was full of racism and support for regressionist candidates. However, the constant appearance and political success of this movement put these events and comments on the main stage for America. Today, the number of Tea Party members have dwindled, and the party itself is relatively rejected and defunct, but the stage was primed for an individual who is just a step to the left.

Source: Photo by Jose Moreno on Unsplash

Trump’s candidacy and eventual presidency has furthered the divisive nature and extremist rhetoric of the Tea Party. A study conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University in San Bernardino shows that the United States hate rate has increased by 5% since the start of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015. President Trump’s lack of forethought and filter has unconscionably moved the national discourse towards accepting extremist values as something they are not — normal. Political theorist Joseph Overton suggests that there is a “window” known as the Overton Window that shows a range of acceptable ideas, viewpoints, and actions of the society. This window is shifted by forcing people to consider radical ideas and concepts. This happens when comparing these super radical ideas and concepts to less extreme, but still radical, alternatives. In doing this, the less extreme alternatives appear more positive and acceptable, despite being still outside the window of acceptable norms. On almost a daily basis society is forced to hear a story on or comment from the president. As a President, his comments and beliefs are broadcast for everyone to hear and judge. They are inescapable and stand as the moniker for what is acceptable because we, as a society, have been primed by the extremism of the Tea Party. Trump commenting on “Bad Hombres”, calling for the curtail of immigrants from “shithole countries”, and not denouncing inherently racist organizations are rarely viewed without a reference to his past actions and even to that of the Tea Party.

Trump’s success heavily lies in the rhetoric of the Tea Party, an extremely conservative political movement. So, why are we not more concerned with the actions and comments of a leader whose success derives from a movement rejected and denounced as racist and corrupt? Trump’s comment is too often defended by saying “you know what he means” and stop being a “snowflake” as if to say they do not matter. Our leaders’ actions and words matter. They represent our nation; they move our nation, and they can destroy our nation. As a nation, we deserve better. As a leader, he should do better.


  1. Habib, Yamily. “Confirmed: Hate has increased during the Trump era.” Al Dia News. September 19, 2017. Accessed January 15, 2018.

  2. Merica, Dan. “Trump seems ready to pull aid from Puerto Rico. He took a different tone with Texas and Florida.” October 12, 2017. Accessed January 15, 2018.

  3. Lexington’s Notebook. “Racism in the tea-party movement.” The Economist. July 20, 2010. Accessed January 15, 2018.

  4. Davis, Susan. “House GOP’s 2010 Tea Party Class Heads For The Exits.” NPR. April 03, 2016. Accessed January 15, 2018.

  5. Russell, Nathan J. “An Introduction of the Overton Window of Political Responsibilities.”Mackinac Center for Public Policy. January 4, 2006. Accessed January 15, 2018.

  6. Maza, Carlos. “How Trump Makes Extreme Look Normal.” Vox. December 21, 2017. Accessed January 15, 2018


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