Gianforte’s attack on Jacobs was shameful enough. Almost as shameful was Gianforte’s press release about what occurred, which blamed Jacobs. “It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”
It was a blatant lie, as evinced by the Fox News team and the charge against Gianforte. But under Trump, blatant lying is the new normal. And a “liberal journalist” is the enemy.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, says Donald Trump “has contributed to a climate of discourse consistent with assaulting a reporter for asking an inconvenient question.”
It used to be that candidates and elected officials were supposed to answer reporters’ questions. We thought democracy depended on it. But we’re now in the era of Donald Trump, who calls the press the “enemy of the American people.”
In America, candidates or officials didn’t beat up reporters who posed questions they didn’t like. That kind of thing occurred in dictatorships.
More generally and menacingly, Trump has licensed the dark side of the American psyche. His hatefulness and vindictiveness have normalized a new meanness in America.
Since Trump came on the scene, hate crimes have soared. America has become even more polarized. Average Americans say and do things to people they disagree with that in a different time would have been unthinkable.
“I’d submit that the president has unearthed some demons,” says Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican Representative from South Carolina. “I’ve talked to a number of people about it back home. They say, ‘Well, look, if the president can say whatever, why can’t I say whatever?’ He’s given them license.”
The new meanness is also finding its way into public policy, where Trump wants unprecedented cuts in Medicaid, Social Security disability, and food stamps, and to shove 23 million Americans off health insurance – all so the rich and corporations can get big tax cuts.
I recall a time in America where this kind of proposal would be considered an affront to decency. Now it’s the baseline for negotiations.
A president contributes to the norms of our society. He sets the moral tone. Trump is setting them at a new low.