*Updated 2018 by Kira Goldring
A Republican president is usually not great for liberal policies, but it seems that President Donald Trump’s relationship with liberals got hot and personal from the get-go. He has spited them in many ways, and they’ve gone after him with everything they have. However, the stormy election has exposed liberals to a part of America that many were surprisingly unaware of. Given that they can now confront these issues, has Trump perhaps helped liberals?
Here are three reasons why Trump may actually be good for liberals, and three long-term reasons why not.
Reasons why Trump is good for liberals
He unites liberals under the Democratic Party
A main reason for Trump’s rise to power was Americans’ discontent with old politics, which they felt was embodied by Hillary Clinton. But throughout his election, much came to light about Trump and his policies that many perceived as outrageous and threatening to liberal ideals. For example, Trump was caught on tape making lewd remarks about women that many viewed as being akin to sexual assault. As a result, from the moment Trump was elected there have been numerous Women’s Marches, which have become one of the biggest protest movements in American history.
Trump has since dug himself deeper in the eyes of liberals, what with his aggressive immigration stance and his use of an expletive to refer to other countries (including the entire continent of Africa). Through all of his blunders, Trump has given liberals a common antagonist, and more liberals than ever have become politically involved to fight back. Let’s not forget that lower voter turnout contributed to Trump’s victory, a fact that now inspires liberals young and old to be more involved in the political system or face repercussions.
Trump is a wild card
Part of Trump’s original appeal was his refusal to play the part of traditional politician. Instead, his answer-to-no-one attitude translates into his policies, which are not consistently Republican. In fact, some of his moves since becoming US president have actually been in line with the liberal agenda; for example, Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was originally derided by liberal leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren when put it into place by Obama. Also, although criticized as being sexist, Trump signed two bills aimed at promoting women in technology, science, mathematics and engineering, and allocated $200 million in education grants a year towards minorities and women who are interested in science. Trump’s unpredictability seems to be working in liberals’ favor, and may continue to uphold some of the values that liberals hold dear.
Trump has uncovered the flaws in the US system and society
From an Electoral College system that allowed him to become president without winning the popular vote to a tax system that offers the wealthy too many loopholes, Trump has highlighted many flaws in the way that things are run in the US. By creating a stir over these issues, Trump may have helped American liberals in the long term.
Also, ever since Trump was announced as US president, there has been a rise in hate crimes against minorities. From Jewish cemeteries being vandalized to the shooting of two Indian men in Kansas, the discourse of the 2016 US election has revealed the prejudice that still exists in “liberal” America. Trump brought a large population that adopts a racist agenda out of the woodwork, likely due to his anti-immigration rhetoric. The reasons behind this hatred and vitriol now must – and can – be addressed for the US to grow as a nation. The same way disillusioned middle-America rallied in protest of Obama and ended up with Trump, liberals now have a platform on which to stand in order to fight for a president that combats the flaws that Trump has brought to light.
Reasons why Trump is bad for liberals
Here, we wanted to examine the Trump administration’s long-lasting implications for the liberal cause (even if, for argument’s sake, he doesn’t make it to a second term).
His changes to the Supreme Court could affect the country for decades
With three out of nine Supreme Court judges over 78 that lean Democratic, there is a distinct risk that Trump will be able to replace more of them. This would tilt the balance to the conservative side. Neil Gorsuch, a devout conservative, has been nominated to the Supreme Court for life, which will help restore the court’s conservative majority. However, Trump’s shortlist for a potential next appointment includes judges like William Pryor, who called the legalization of abortion “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history” and believes that gay people should be jailed for sleeping together. Given that Supreme Court judges are appointed for life, there is a big risk that Trump’s reign can cast a shadow over liberals that will last for decades.
Trump has polarized political discussion
President Trump has ushered in a period of political division that one ABC political analyst compared to that of pre-civil war America. While some of this conflict between left and right is not connected to Trump, he has started a trend of aggressive divisiveness that is unprecedented in the modern day. A narrative of ‘us-vs.-them’ has antagonized outsiders to bring his supporters closer to himself; “liberal” has become a dirty word in the US except when used by people who identify as such. This distracts from the fact that while liberals feel differently from conservatives about many issues, they are just as patriotic as their counterparts. Outright criticism of Trump’s secret service agencies have furthered a battle-like mentality, indicating that moderate political discourse between right and left will be hard to reinstate even after Trump’s reign is over.
He has unleashed a war on the media
The US president freely uses the term “fake news” to dispel negative rumors or accusations. Trump’s criticism of the media was a highlight during his election campaign, and he has since continued to discredit established publications in the eyes of many conservatives and Republicans. Yet, only twenty-eight percent of newsroom writers actually identify as Democrat, which shows that public perception of the media is what Trump has successfully changed. This has started a “post-truth” era, where facts lose their power to decide arguments.
He has promoted the sense that the liberal media is on a witch-hunt after him, and that they can no longer be trusted to cover any subject. Many Americans now exclusively get their information from conservative outlets like Breitbart, having lost their trust in mainstream media. That Americans’ trust in the media is at an all-time low is problematic not just for liberals but for America at large, because the media plays a big role in democracy. If no one can hold the US president accountable for his actions, it’s bad for the opposition in the short term and for everyone in society in the long term.
The Bottom Line: The polarization of left and right that Trump perpetuates has deeply divided the US and turned many against liberals. However, Trump has started conversations about the country that weren’t widespread beforehand and may ultimately be helpful to the liberal agenda and America at large. What do you think? Has Trump been better for liberals or conservatives?