The #Resistance and their irresponsible rhetoric
Eddie Damstra | Monday, September 24, 2018
According to some political pundits, comedians and many people on Twitter, Donald Trump is not simply a bad president; he is an authoritarian fascist. Some have even likened the president to Adolf Hitler, arguing that policies like the travel ban or those dealing with border enforcement are not too dissimilar from the oppression carried out under the Third Reich. Such a comparison is, of course, ludicrous and irresponsible. Many people, nonetheless, spout this hyperbolic language. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the pervasiveness of this type of inflammatory rhetoric than the current climate of Twitter. The “Resistance” hashtag is spreading all over Twitter, with many users proudly claiming to vehemently oppose the legitimacy of the current administration.
One obvious problem with utilizing over-the-top comparisons to voice disagreement with Trump is that such comparisons water down the severity of actual, cataclysmic historical events. Trump’s America is far from Hitler’s Germany, and attempting to compare the two is unfair not only to Donald Trump, but also to those affected by the atrocities carried out by the Nazis. Similarly, Trump is not a fascist, and labeling him as such weakens the understood meaning of the word. The word “fascist” is used by many on the left as a description of Republican policies they disagree with. The word is thrown around so much that I would be surprised if many of the people using the word to describe Trump and other Republicans actually knew what it meant.
You can say that Trump’s policies are morally bad without comparing them to humanity’s worst humanitarian wrongdoings. In fact, as a responsible citizen, one has an obligation to pursue honest and genuine dialogue. Drawing extreme, unjustified comparisons is entirely antithetical to this aspiration of encouraging productive conversation.
There are often times when I disagree with Trump and believe his behavior, rhetoric or policies are morally reprehensible. I disagree vehemently with Trump’s approach to border enforcement, for example. I also believe that much of Trump’s rhetoric is itself problematic and morally wrong. However, I also realize that morality exists on a spectrum, meaning some immoral things are less immoral than others. Trump should certainly be called out for immoral policies and behavior. However, criticisms, if they are to be effective and honest, must be responsible and accurate.
Those who offer hyperbolic comparisons and claim to be resisting the current administration have zero chance of ever convincing Americans who are politically indifferent or right-leaning that Trump is a terrible president. When people hear an individual utilize outlandish comparisons, they stop giving that individual’s concerns any legitimate consideration. Simply put, making exaggerated claims and spouting disingenuous rhetoric only results in losing any sense of respectability or legitimacy in the eyes of those one is attempting to convince.
Perhaps Donald Trump is a bad president. He may even be a morally reprehensible individual with certain morally reprehensible policies. One can make the argument that such is the case. However, there is no argument to be made that Trump is somehow similar to Hitler or some other bloodthirsty dictator. Making such comparisons is unfair, dishonest and entirely counterproductive to any attempts at winning over the hearts and minds of those not in the Trump opposition camp. To aid the survival of honest criticism, healthy dialogue and productive civil relations, I hope those who currently engage in this unwarranted rhetoric cease doing so moving forward.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.