Those of us who didn’t vote for Donald Trump have spent much of the past year in a state of heightened anger and anxiety. How is it possible that the president of the United States is this ill-informed about domestic and foreign policy? This prone to form opinions about the world on the basis of watching ideologically skewed cable news programs? This narcissistic? This adept at exacerbating the country’s deepest divisions? This flagrantly corrupt? This willing and eager to spew blatant lies about easily verifiable facts? This authoritarian in his outlook and sensibility?
I still don’t fully understand how it happened, but it has. That’s something more of us need to accept. The point isn’t to treat the Trump administration as “normal” in the sense that so many pundits and activists have employed the term over the past year: Trump obviously represents a dramatic break from the longstanding norms of American democracy. But pointing that out over and over again does nothing at all to keep him from becoming the first in a long line of presidents, senators, representatives, governors, and other public figures who follow his lead stylistically if not always ideologically. If that happens, it won’t much matter that Trump was “not normal” when he was elected — because he will have succeeded in inaugurating a new normal in American political life.