Trump’s Campaign Rhetoric As Scary as Potential Victory

With former President of the United States Donald Trump’s recent announcement of a 2024 run, the bulk of the attention paid to his campaign will be on the very real possibility of a Trump win in 2024. However, in considering the possibility of a second Trump win, it’s easy to neglect another crucial part of the equation — what will another Trump campaign mean for the United States, regardless of whether he wins or loses? 

Whether or not Trump succeeds in his 2024 bid for the presidency, his campaign will likely have serious consequences. Running for president will give him and his dangerous political messaging a bolstered platform, something he has lacked since mainstream media attention has  largely shifted away from him and he has been banned from various social media sites. Last time Trump ran, we saw him rile up his supporters with xenophobic, racist, Islamophobic, antisemitic, and sexist statements. From his declaration that he wanted to ban Muslim people from entering the U.S., to his open mockery of a disabled reporter, to being pressured into rescinding comments that resurfaced of his bragging about sexual assault, the things Trump said during his first presidential campaign would have been detrimental to the political climate regardless of the outcome of that election. His supporters loved him before he won, and they hung onto every word he said. His influence, even then, was undeniable.

The danger of Trump’s rhetoric didn’t go away when he took office, or even after he left. At the beginning of the pandemic, his reluctance to wear a mask — and later on, to get the COVID vaccine — had massive impacts on the U.S. COVID response. Many Republican politicians followed his lead, and the subsequent refusal by large numbers of Americans to follow COVID guidelines exacerbated the effects of the pandemic and led to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of people. Trump’s referral to COVID as the “Chinese Virus” and the “Kung Flu” placed the blame for the pandemic on Asian people, contributing to a massive uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes. 

Trump’s denial of the 2020 election results and his “stop the steal” slogan have also had lasting impacts. Republicans have embraced his rhetoric and have contested the validity of the electoral system as recently as the midterm elections held last week. There are still many Americans who believe that Trump won the 2020 election, and a majority of politicians who have cast doubt on the results, like Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, won their midterm races. 

The problem is that fighting hatred with more hatred does not benefit the discourse or increase potential for positive change. Trump has already managed to reconfigure the conservative political landscape into a competition over who is most creative and zealous in oppressing others. His fellow Republicans scrambled to keep pace with his rhetoric, and in the years since his first campaign, inflammatory political speech has become altogether too standard. Trump’s 2024 bid will no doubt push the limits of indecency even further.

These issues didn’t stem from policy choices — they stemmed from Trump’s messaging. His supporters believe his message and willingly ignore the very real consequences of continued faith in his ideas. This means that reaching across the aisle has grown exponentially more difficult, especially in a place like Oberlin where we have all but expunged Republican perspectives from our discourse. Unfortunately, ignoring the infection doesn’t make it disappear — it just leaves it to fester.

We need to listen to and engage with people we disagree with if we ever hope to convince them of the harm of Trump’s rhetoric. Dreadful as it sounds, the only way to combat Trump’s message is to focus on its meaning and consequences, instead of on Trump himself. His words and ideas aren’t just his anymore — they have tangible impacts on the lives of people across the country. We need to fight the hateful messaging, because convincing each other that we’re all hurting for the same reasons is the best way to find common ground. 

The looming significance of the potential effects of Trump’s candidacy is particularly pertinent to us as the Editorial Board because of our relationship to the broader news sphere through Opinions reporting. Like all those privileged with the opportunity to take a formalized stance on politics, we should recognize that for a politician like Trump, the magnitude of his cultural impact goes above and beyond the content of his docket. Therefore, the publishing of opinions on Trump and the byproducts of his politics must consider both the outcomes of his policy-making, disagreeable or otherwise, and the results of his personality and dangerous messaging.