For the media, President Trump’s first week in office has made its job a lot harder, but at the same time gave it a target so large that missing would be virtually impossible.
It’s hard to begin to describe what many are saying is the worst out of the gate performance of any U.S. president in recent memory — and possibly ever. If nothing else, the president, apparently a polar opposite of his predecessor, is set on bulldozing his political agenda through, and it’s not like he ever promised that he’d be gentle about it.
From infractions including his opening speech to America, so divisive and condescending that Washington Post columnist George Will called it “the most dreadful inaugural address in history“; his executive order to suspend the cut in FHA mortgage insurance rates; eliminating civil rights and environmental pages from the White House website; moving forward with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline; threatening to “send in the feds” to violence-plagued Chicago; calling for an investigation into an unprovable claim that up to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election; and his attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and immigrants, for starters, this president has been working overtime on bullsh*t.
But what’s most unique, almost like a puppeteer manipulating the strings of a marionette, Trump has people dancing around the things he says and does through his Twitter posts. Social media is a relatively new phenomenon, available only since the George W. Bush years and popularized while Barack Obama was in office, but in Trump’s hands, it’s virtually an Orwellian propaganda tool.
So how do we even interpret what we’ve witnessed in the past week? Here are some clues, but don’t be afraid to comment.
1. President Trump may be many things, but he is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In fact, he’s not even trying to hide his agenda. From the beginning (and even in his campaign), he made clear what he intended to do. In his inaugural address, he took a shot at basically everyone who came before him: “Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs,” as if no one in public office prior to him ever did any good. In his mind, he probably feels he’s doing what needs to be done, “draining the swamp,” as he’s said. But that means policies that may well undo many of the political social gains of the past 50 years.
2. The truth, in Trump’s America, is subjective. Sean Spicer, a well-liked Washington political operative who became the White House press secretary, entered the tempest of dealing with the always-hungry media by actually attacking comparisons between the size of Trump’s inaugural viewers and Obama’s.“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period—both in person and around the globe,” igniting a press more than willing to call him on it. He later contritely admitted to Fox News that he’d gotten it wrong. But it painted a picture of an administration comfortable with “alternative facts,” one willing to correct deliberate misinformation at a later time than when people need accuracy.
3. That means fallacious statements are not getting a filter. Most administrations make it a point to be able to back up what they say to the American public. In a Trump White House, it appears, that’s not necessary. The president’s unsubstantiated claim that between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally in the November election disturbed both Democratic and Republican factions. This wasn’t a small thing at all because it’s an Alex Jones’ Info Wars-type of conspiracy theory, not unlike claiming nobody has ever landed on the moon. It’s one thing for far-right activists to loosely claim an election that got their candidate in was still rigged, but for the winner himself to add credence to it devalues his office.
4. However, it is not a stretch to wonder if the government will now turn on its most vulnerable people. At least in this first week, there is not a single policy position or execution that came from the White House that would benefit minorities. Of course, we don’t know what the future holds, but if the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline decisions are any indication, the affront to Native Americans are how the Trump administration will treat communities of color. In his tweet saying he would “send in the feds” to combat Chicago’s runaway violence and his pledge on the White House website to protect police while saying nothing about creating cohesion between law enforcement and Black communities belies the possibility of a contentious relationship between Trump and African-Americans. But he has cracked down on immigration and has taken the first steps to build a wall on the Mexican border, whose cost—if it happens—will undoubtedly be passed to the American taxpayer. One must wonder, though, if First Lady Melania Trump would have been allowed into the country had these rules been applied to her.
5. If the administration becomes draconian, the first indicator will be through healthcare. Trump is so serious about undoing President Obama’s signature policy that he has even pulled back advertising to promote Healthcare.gov. In fact, Obama’s seat wasn’t even cold before Trump called for federal agencies to basically slow the use of the provisions of the ACA at their discretion. This move, however symbolic, comes after Congress took similar steps toward the law’s repeal. What the lawmakers aren’t saying is that collapsing the health care system is a recipe for impoverishing and weakening the populace. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, by 2026, 32 million people would be without health insurance if there is nothing to replace the ACA. What’s more, states would be on the hook for $1.1 trillion, according to an Urban Institute study, which means money would be diverted from needs from infrastructure to public safety to the environment. Republicans are attempting to create the replacement to the ACA that Trump has promised, but no one has a clue as to what it looks like or if it will really be any better.
Madison J. Gray is Digital Managing Editor of EBONY.com and JETMag.com. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray.
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