‘Don’t normalise Donald Trump!’ has become the latest stock phrase of the disappointed Clinton supporter. Host of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver, reminds us that ‘Donald Trump is not normal’, and warns that any optimism may ‘feed into the normalisation of Donald Trump’. A New York Times writer laments that even on the day of the election result ‘all around were the unmistakable signs of normalisation in progress’. David Remnick of the New Yorker said he felt like he was ‘hallucinating’ as he described how the world had ‘normalised it already’.
Indeed, you would have to be hallucinating to believe that the immediate reaction of the Hillary-backing media to Trump’s victory was a dignified, stoic acceptance of defeat: the vicious demonisation of Trump voters, the public declarations of tearfulness and self-pity, and the sanctification of the losing candidate as potentially ‘the finest world leader our galaxy has ever seen’, seem to suggest otherwise.
Media analyst Adam Johnson defines this alleged ‘normalisation’ of Trump as ‘treating his rank sexism, xenophobia and fascist dog whistles as just another policy difference against equally valid opponents’. A Guardian writer names Trump’s vow to deport three million illegal immigrants as among the many policies which are ‘despotic, inflammatory, extreme and violent’. But when it comes to Trump’s ‘xenophobic’ policies on immigration, is it really the president-elect who ‘normalised’ such a hardline stance?
Trump’s signature pledge of building a wall on the US-Mexico border has come to symbolise what many see as the gulf between his nativist, xenophobic and closed-minded approach, and Clinton’s apparent openness, fairness and decency. Guardian columnist Paul Mason went so far as to say that, in the calls to build The Wall, ‘people understood the unstated second clause: and we’ll reimpose segregation on black America’.
Clinton exalted us to ‘imagine a tomorrow where instead of building walls, we’re breaking down barriers’. Yet, as Trump was keen to point out during the presidential debates, ‘Hillary Clinton wanted the wall, Hillary Clinton fought for the wall’. He was referring to the the fact that both Clinton and Obama voted in favour of the Secure Fence Act 2006, proposed by George W Bush. Fact-checker site Politifact insists that Trump’s claim is only ‘half-true’, making the all-important distinction between what is clearly a perfectly humane and modest 700-mile fence and a 1,000-mile wall of hate. Perhaps Mexicans planning on crossing the border in the future will be relieved to hear Trump’s concession that some of the wall could be a fence in some areas.