If I May: Beware of Normalization in the Trump Era

Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of the most respected and heralded voices of the Democratic party, voted for the confirmation of Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Predictably, this decision was met with a considerable amount of backlash from Senator Warren’s liberal constituents. Why would she vote for a candidate that is so clearly unequipped to run any government department, let alone the Department of Housing and Urban Development? In fact, in a November article from The Hill, Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams, said, “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”

On “Pod Save America,” a recently-created podcast aimed at providing commentary and analysis on President Donald Trump’s actions and ways to combat them, host Jon Favreau noted Carson’s undeniable lack of qualifications and argued that there was no political reason to vote for any of Trump’s nominees if one is a Democrat. Later on the same podcast, Democratic National Committee Chair candidate and former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez echoed this sentiment, claiming that Democrats in Congress should accord Donald Trump “the same level of courtesy that Mitch McConnell accorded to Barack Obama, which is no courtesy whatsoever.”

These reactions, with which I agree strongly, are in response to something that I believe could become a huge problem during the Trump administration. That problem is normalization. Earlier in the episode, Mr. Perez articulated an important statement. “They’re in the process of normalizing things that never should get normalized,” he said.

Now, it is no surprise that Republicans were generally quick to support the nominations of Trump’s cabinet picks. However, to me, it is both surprising and troubling that most Democratic senators have largely voted “yea” on the majority of Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions.

The unfortunate truth — and likely the reason that so many liberals did not vote against some of the confirmations — is that Democrats do not have the votes to prevent these nominations. But the idea that voting “no” won’t accomplish anything still falls flat to me. It is not as if these are just typical conservative candidates for these positions put forth by a typical conservative president. If that were the case, then I would support the liberal senators voting to confirm and promote a peaceful transfer of power. After all, it is important that these departments are run properly.

However, this is not the case. Our president has shown that he is a megalomaniac who has absolutely no business running this country, and he has chosen a set of candidates that are nearly all vastly unfit to run their departments. By voting to confirm these nominees, the Democratic senators are simply joining the Republicans in normalizing these candidates. Instead, they should have used their vote to show the president, the Republican Party and their constituents that these candidates are unacceptable. Whenever Democrats have the opportunity to call out Trump’s decisions, I believe they must do so. They cannot let even relatively smaller things like cabinet picks slide, especially when they have an opportunity to publicly rebuff the terrible and dangerous decisions by President Trump.