In the spirit of the new year, let’s take a glass-half-full look at the Trump presidency, which is coming to the end of its first year (yes, my friends, it’s only been a year). For all its chaos, crassness and sheer stupidity, the Trump era has actually ushered in some unintended positive consequences — even aside from round-the-clock entertainment.
One is the public takedown of certain handsy, entitled, delusional men who failed to recognize that overtly sexual advances toward women in the workplace are unwarranted, unwanted and plainly predatory.
If it weren’t for the shock of the nation electing a man to the White House who openly advocated the abuse of power to grope and molest women without the most basic regard for their dignity, there never would have been such a groundswell of support to push back against the Weinsteins, Lauers and Moores of the world. It was the wake-up call the country needed to realize the size and scope of the problem. The confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas (the U.S. owes Anita Hill a big apology, now it’s woke) and the multiple allegations against the Bills Clinton and Cosby weren’t enough. It took nearly half the voting population choosing to not only overlook Mr. Trump’s offensive words (“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”) but to endorse them by handing him the presidency. There’s no other way to take that but as a solid signal that change won’t happen unless we step forward and demand it, regardless of the personal cost. We may have lost the battle against The Donald, but now that the war is on, women are in it to win.
The challenge, of course, will be to keep up the momentum without going overboard (not every obnoxious comment or poorly considered pass is a fireable offense) or causing a backlash that leads some men to avoid hiring women rather than keep their own behavior in check. Unfortunately, there is a learning curve here, and women again will have to do a lot of the educating.
No. 2 might be increased civic engagement to counter Mr. Trump’s best efforts to demean various groups. The women’s marches around the world a year ago were attended by millions, and plans for 2018 marches are underway across the country, including in Baltimore. Donations to charitable organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the American Refugee Committee — were up hundreds of times in the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency compared to the same period in 2016. And digital subscriptions increased markedly post election at some of the country’s largest newspapers, even if not the industry as a whole.
Of course there’s a long way to go, with much of the population apathetic if not downright hostile toward government. And the engagement that may matter most is at the polls. So get educated, and get out the vote.
A third pro is a good rattling of the two main political parties, neither of which is looking particularly pretty on any number of fronts: fiscal or social. The Republicans in particular have revealed themselves to be opportunists of the lowest level, with the Republican National Committee last month choosing to restore previously severed ties — along with funding and support — for Roy Moore, despite allegations that the Alabama Senate candidate once preyed on teen girls, all because President Trump endorsed him. (Mr. Moore ultimately lost to a Democrat.) And the Democrats can hardly claim the moral high ground when they were so willing, at least initially, to carry a double standard regarding sexual impropriety by their own members. (They should get credit for eventually calling for Democratic offenders to step down, while the GOP instead doubled down, but that’s not much of a win).
Clearly the country has had it with establishment politicians and policies on either side, though credible replacements with solid, achievable visions have yet to come forward, and the entrenched aren’t exactly eager to move aside. The parties have got two years to figure it out before the next presidential primary season. I suggest they take Howard Dean’s advice and get to grooming the next generation. The electorate said “no” to dynasties last year and will undoubtedly be looking for fresh faces, ideas and approaches with, one would hope post Trump, substance over style.
And a fourth is found on the flip side of our country’s deepening divisions. Donald Trump’s election has exposed the radicals on the left and right, brought the racists and misogynists out of the shadows and laid bare our weaknesses as a nation, among them: ignorance, arrogance and smugness. This social media president has brought our faults to the surface for all to see. So now, instead of expending energy to hide them, perhaps we can start addressing them.
Tricia Bishop is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @triciabishop.