Donald’s Punching Bags

How Trump’s scathing rhetoric makes us sympathize with those we usually scorn

Of all the things we have witnessed in this administration, one of the most surprising has been President Donald Trump turning on those he once revered. On March 2, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Department of Justice’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and Trump wasted no time showing his detest for the attorney general’s actions.

Illustration by Katie Heywood

“Sessions should have never recused himself and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said during his July 19 interview with The New York Times. On Twitter he took to describing how Sessions had taken “a VERY weak position” in relation to the hearings. Politicians, citizens, and pundits alike denounced Trump for his harsh treatment of such a loyal and steadfast supporter. These critics are calling for us all to forgive and forget, to see the humanity in Sessions and empathize with his plight. However, Sessions has not always been one to empathize and humanize. In fact, his track record shows quite the opposite.

During his lengthy time in the public sector, Sessions has been critical of nearly every marginalized group in this country. He is so vehemently anti-immigration that he has fought legal immigration. He sees carbon dioxide not as a greenhouse gas, but as “plant food.” Perhaps most disturbing of all is his history of obscene comments against people of color, especially the black community. He has been wholly and unapologetically harsh to people who have needed comprehensive leaders and legislation. Now that the tables have turned, sympathizers have poured out to defend him.

“People of color and immigrant communities have been affected by his hate-filled and stereotype-laden rhetoric and actions for decades.”

Yet it is not his life on the line, but merely his reputation. There are people in this country who cannot afford to forgive Sessions, nor should they. People of color and immigrant communities have been affected by his hate-filled and stereotype-laden rhetoric and actions for decades. A wrist slap from dear Donald does not equate to what these communities have endured. However, Sessions is not the only Trump affiliate that has faced ridicule and been cast out. While Sessions has been having a pity party, ex-White House Communications Director, Press Secretary, and national punchline Sean Spicer has been trying to profit off his stint with Trump.

Spicer is the infamous, bumbling, blatantly lying, former White House press secretary. Spicer made a cameo on Sept. 17 as an announcer at the Emmys. It had been a while since the public had seen the notorious ex-press secretary. He resigned from his position on July 21, out of a desire to give Trump and the White House “a clean slate,” according to CNN, though it was reported that there was great internal conflict between the two men. This removal allowed the White House to move on to Anthony Scaramucci, while Spicer retreated to lick his wounds. The Emmys was his chance to step back into our good graces. For many, it did just that. He came on stage and seemed at ease, poking fun at false assertions he had made during his time under Trump. Many in the audience and at home laughed at the charade. People had given him the necessary time to be forgotten, and now they are ready to use him as a relatable inside joke on talk shows and around social media. However, his time in Trump’s administration was not always so lighthearted. Spicer was caught many times falsifying claims, retracting statements, and using insensitive language. “Holocaust centers,” anyone? Many of Spicer’s outright lies created even more reason for distrust in an administration that is trying to pass executive orders under the radar and dismantle Obama’s legacy. His presence caused discrepancies between the White House and the media, and the media and the public. His tenure was not without repercussions.

The man who knows the most about manipulating people’s emotions is our president himself. In fact, it is how he rose to power. Trump got to where he is by catering to blue collar and rural Americans who felt forgotten, and by not being taken seriously. This is not merely the fault of the everyman, but the fault of our country’s public figures and elite as well. Saturday Night Live had Trump as a host, Jimmy Fallon got chummy with him, and Democratic politicians did not take his popularity seriously. Now that Trump has found himself in the Oval Office, he has the lowest approval rating in presidential history, and using him as a satirical pawn is no longer funny to him or us. Now he is turning our attention to his subordinates, and it’s working. Whether it be for sympathy or laughs, we are being distracted by Trump’s piercing rhetoric of these men.

We can afford this no longer. The more we ignore, sympathize with, or chuckle at the missteps of this administration, the further we will fall into this far-right rabbit hole. Not only have Sessions and Spicer had their wrongdoings, but they also stuck by Trump and his cabinet through all their transgressions. We have become desensitized to their actions. We must cut through the ignorance and nonsense, and hold others and ourselves accountable. What we condone is what will continue.