Most presidential elections feature an exhausting series of faux outrage cycles, where partisans pretend to be outraged by “gaffes” from the opposing party.
You probably remember Mitt Romney’s “I like being able to fire people” comment, or Barack Obama saying “You didn’t build that,” or Obama’s use of the idiom “lipstick on a pig” when discussing Sarah Palin, among many other tedious examples of things people were only pretending to be angry about.
One of the few redeeming qualities of this election campaign has been the relative lack of faux outrage — though unfortunately, the probable reason for the decline in faux outrage is that Donald Trump produces plenty of real outrages to keep us busy.
Yet for some reason, we’re having a faux outrage cycle right now.
The object of today’s fake outrage is a comment by Trump on Monday night that Bernie Sanders “made a deal with the devil, she’s the devil.”
How dare Trump call Hillary Clinton the devil?
It’s not exactly unprecedented. A few months ago, John Boehner called Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.” Do you recall being outraged about it?
You probably weren’t outraged because Boehner was being metaphorical, and so was Trump. After all, do you think Trump even believes in the devil?
Comparing your opponent to the devil is not nice, and it would be better if Trump hadn’t done it. But we need to prioritise our outrages. If we fling every faux outrage at Trump that we can get our hands on, it normalizes him as a candidate, and risks making the controversy over his disqualifying intemperance seem like any partisan controversy over any stupid gaffe.
Trump also had a “dispute” with a crying baby today. Most are only talking about this story because it’s amusing, but if anyone is actually acting mad at Trump for ordering a crying baby out of his rally, that’s even worse than fixating on the “devil” story.
Pretending to be outraged at Trump only reinforces his message that his opponents are a bunch of politically correct ninnies, and it helps Trump along in his destruction of the remaining norms of politeness and decency in our society.
Keep in mind, for comparison, an incomplete list of the actually outrageous things Trump has done in recent days:
- Urge the Russians to conduct espionage that would help him win the election.
- Personally attack a pair of Gold Star parents over their religion.
- Say he might or might not honour NATO treaty obligations.
- Threaten to undermine the legitimacy of the election by suggesting his loss would be because it was “rigged.”
- Retain a campaign advisor who said Hillary Clinton should be shot.
- Claim that Russia has not invaded Ukraine.
Trump, of course, said his call for pro-Trump Russian espionage was “sarcastic.” If you want to make the (strong!) case that Trump’s Russia “joke” was not funny, but dangerous, you probably shouldn’t claim to take him seriously about his opponent being “the devil.”
Eyes on the ball, people. Eyes on the ball.
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