As the polls drew to a close in the Fall of 2016, I found myself floating on a cloud of disbelief. It wasn’t that I felt certain Hillary Clinton, your run-of-the-mill bargain bin corrupt politician, would win. Rather, I just couldn’t imagine a world where Donald Trump could win.
Trump with his four bankruptcies and 34 sexual assault allegations; Trump calling Mexican immigrants rapists (and too many other racist comments than I care to write); Trump’s close ties with the alt-right, or just his general verbal buffoonery — it was inconceivable to me that he was supported as much as he was. Trump was a caricature of a caricature, an exaggerated fiction of a politician, something fabricated in a political cartoonist’s wet dream, not a real contender for the presidency.
And yet, here we are, emerging from the other side of an abusive relationship. I feel like Danny DeVito busting through the couch in Always Sunny in Philadelphia, sweaty and disoriented, desperately needing a respite from four years of dark suffocation.
However, Trump’s presidency wasn’t a complete flop. Here are some of the, uh, positives we can thank Trump for.
- Trump has shown us just how racist America truly is.
I used to think that racism was a vestigial tail from a bygone era. Trump’s presidency has shown me that pure, undiluted racism, is still alive and has a very real impact. For example, Trump calling COVID-19 the “Chi-NA Virus” and the “Kung Flu” has emboldened people to perform hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans across the US. And because we’re all tuned into the reality television of Trump’s presidency we’re finally paying enough attention to see it.
Now, there are real lives being harmed and lost from hate crimes. However, what we can learn from the increase in hate crimes is that hate has been here all along. We didn’t go from no hate crimes before Trump’s presidency to a plethora of hate crimes after. Racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and chauvinism have been endemic in the US all our lives, but because Trump’s rhetoric encourages this hateful behavior, and gives people the confidence to declare it openly, the festering boil is now easier to see.
So, thank you, Trump, for making America aware again.
- Trump has made White House corruption easier to digest.
Trump is undoubtedly a corrupt politician, but corruption didn’t start with him. Everything, from how our laws pamper corporations to our bloated military indicates a system that values the few over the many, a system supported in one way or another by each president in office. Before Trump, however, presidents tended to keep all of this on the down-low. They smiled for the camera, kissed a baby, and delivered carefully crafted speeches designed to keep us calm, happy, and ignorant.
Trump’s tendency to blurt out commentary on just about anything, however, has made for great entertainment and has kept us unusually tuned in to the goings-on in the White House. Furthermore, Trump’s tendency to take everything to the extreme not only draws attention to the issue but has made it easier for us to point at it and say unequivocally “that is bad.” Because he keeps us on our toes, Trump has forced us to become more educated in politics.
So, thank you, Trump, for making America vigilant again.
- Trump has increased political activism.
Since Trump became president, political activism is at an all-time high. The four biggest protests in US history happened during Trump’s presidency, reaching a fever pitch this year with 15-26 million people participating in the Black Lives Matter protests. Subscriptions to newspapers have swelled and ACLU memberships have increased. Whether knitting pink cat ears or ordering red MAGA caps we are participating in our own government with a fervor unprecedented in America.
So, thank you, Trump, for making America care again.
Trump’s presidency has been a wild ride, to say the least. But through the chaos, some pearls have emerged. We are paying attention more than ever, we understand what’s happening better than we ever did before, and we are fucking tired of the bullshit and finally taking action. So, in the words of the lovely Ariana Grande: “thank you, next.”
Harlow Poffenberger is a Visual Media student at Seattle Central College where she works as an editor at The Seattle Collegian and curates the weekly ART SPACE column. Harlow also likes thru-hiking, traveling, and other adventurous pursuits, and once lived in a house with a bear.