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Colbert Is Right: Trump’s Behavior Is More Than Just a Symptom of Bad Politics

Yesterday, Donald Trump unleashed a vicious personal attack on Morning Joe‘s Mika Brzezinski, but as much as it was nothing out of the ordinary for Trump, it’s still important to recognize that it matters. That’s because Trump’s rise and the normalization of his behavior isn’t just a symptom of what’s wrong with politics—he’s the driving force behind the problem.

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Stephen Colbert pointed this out on The Late Show last night, in response to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s comment that Trump’s attack “represents what is wrong with American politics.” But it doesn’t. As even some Republicans pointed out, this is not normal. Treating Trump like a symbol of an existing problem gives his behavior an excuse it doesn’t deserve.

It’s also what has allowed Republicans to support him and prop him up time and time again to serve their own ends. We all knew of even more vile things he had said during his presidential run and after—up to and including directly inciting violence against individuals, despite how his team denies that. Really, he even said he’d pay legal fees for supporters who punched out the opposition.

Republicans could’ve stopped all of this by doing more than just offering flimsy rebukes but supporting him anyway during the election. Instead, they taught him that this behavior was perfectly acceptable by helping him get elected, and together, they helped him teach everyone else that lesson, too—but it always came from him.

Even after the election, they’ve completely abdicated their responsibility to keep him in check. For all the times we’ve heard how disappointed or concerned they are, we’ve still seen most of them vote with him time and time again. No Republican Senator has voted against Trump’s wishes more than 14% of the time up to this point, with the majority of them siding with him upwards of 95% of the time. In the House, a few members have gone against him well more than 14% of the time, but the vast majority is still over 95% on his side, with a lot of them at a full 100%. That includes accepting some truly absurd cabinet appointments and shooting down a bill that would’ve required the release of Trump’s tax returns.

Meanwhile, Trump goes on with these attacks, as well as being accused of blackmail, and none of this is a surprise coming from him. He’s leading the charge in destroying all sense of decency in politics, and Republicans are only enabling him, even when they claim to be horrified. Right now, he’s throwing a fit over health care (not to mention launching voter suppression efforts) and demanding that the Senate repeal the Affordable Care Act immediately and replace it later to get past their current struggles—just another step in his professed plan to ruin health care so that everyone will blame Democrats and clamor for any Republican replacement.

Thankfully, it’s a plan that the Senate isn’t interested in, but it’s not terribly far removed from the ways he’s already using his limited executive powers to undercut the ACA, which Senate Republicans appear to be totally fine with. It’s a horrible, heartless (and absurdly transparent) plan that, like everything else horrible he says and does, Trump has felt enabled to promote because his actions are treated like more dirty politics, rather than a new, much worse force that needs to be disowned by both sides.

(image: CBS)

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Dan Van Winkle
Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct <em>Geekosystem</em> (RIP), and then at <em>The Mary Sue</em> starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at <em>Smash Bros.</em>

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