“Look, Ramos,” the woman said to me. She’d recognized me as the guy from TV as we waited for an elevator, and she had something to get off her chest. “I don’t watch the news anymore because all they do is talk about Donald Trump. I’m sick and tired of it. Please change the subject.”
I wanted to tell her I was sick of it too. I wanted to explain that journalists don’t create the news, we simply report it. I wanted to say that when President Donald Trump says something insulting, or lies, or makes a completely ridiculous allegation, journalists like me have no other option but to cover it. After all, Trump is the leader of the most powerful country in the world.
But the elevator arrived. I was going down, and she was going up. I thanked her for her honesty, and we quickly said goodbye.
Later I kept thinking about what she had said. She was right in pointing out that most news cycles revolve around Trump. But the primary reason is that so much of what Trump does and says is not normal.
For instance, it isn’t normal for a democratically elected president to call a former adviser a “dog.” But that’s exactly what Trump did with Omarosa Manigault Newman, whose new book, and the revelation that she had secretly recorded the president, have left Trump more ruffled than usual.
In response, Trump fired off some chauvinistic tweets about Manigault Newman to his 53 million followers. This is plainly the same person we heard in that Access Hollywood video claiming he could grab women “by the pussy” because he was famous. This is not normal, or even close.
Nor is it normal for the president of the United States to be making racist remarks. But Trump has, from likening Mexican immigrants to criminals and rapists to reportedly asking why the U.S. needs immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti and several African nations.
Sadly, Trump has normalized this kind of hatred in the United States. When he launches verbal attacks against minorities and immigrants, nothing prevents many of his followers and supporters from doing exactly the same. Not surprisingly, the number of hate groups in America rose from 917 in 2016 to 954 last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Since Trump announced that he was running for president in 2015, he has voiced his prejudice against immigrants. He has said, in many tweets, that he is against the policy of family reunification, or what he calls “chain migration.” This procedure is completely legal and has been a success for decades, allowing immigrants to bring their closest relatives, like their parents and children, to the United States.
Ironically, Melania Trump’s parents just benefited from our “chain migration” policy. Viktor and Amalija Knavs’ lawyer, Michael Wildes, told The New York Times that Melania Trump had sponsored her Slovenian parents in order for them to obtain permanent residency. After complying with all the requirements, they became citizens. It was all legal.
It’s OK for his son’s grandparents to do it, but Trump doesn’t want other immigrants obtaining residency this way. Consistency, after all, is not Trump’s forte.
Trump is the de facto spokesman for a white population that feels anxious and threatened by the huge demographic changes taking place in the United States. By about 2044, every ethnic group in the United States will be a minority, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But the unease and the insults emanating from Trump and many of his followers reflect a segment of our society that is terrified of losing power, cultural influence and jobs. Diversity, accented speech and different skin colors scare them.
Rather than easing this fear, Trump feeds it. After all, that’s how he became the president, and he’s not going to switch strategies now. His plan for getting elected again in 2020 is exactly the same as it was in 2016: Pursue the support of anyone who feels threatened by change, and launch vicious attacks against anyone who opposes him. Trump is the Bully in Chief.
No, it isn’t normal for American presidents to make sexist, racist and xenophobic remarks. It isn’t normal for them lie so much it puts Pinocchio to shame. And keeping silent about it would make us his accomplices.
I wish I had had the time to explain this to the woman waiting for the elevator. How can we not report it?
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is a news anchor on Univision.