Extreme Rhetoric Normalizes Intense Policies

Graphics by Kaley Peniche.

The American political system was created in 1789 after the establishment of the United States Constitution. Since then, the political game has devolved into a whirlwind of conspiracy theories and foul play.

Early political campaigns were mostly divided by partisan lines, debating which way the government should be conducted. However, we now find ourselves in the 21st century, when party ideas and norms mean almost nothing in politics. And what should be considered absurd is now viewed as normal. How is it that campaigns have turned into dogfights and extreme rhetoric has become acceptable?

Because of Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, 2016 has gone down in history as an infamous election year. Not because of the astounding policy debates, but because of the overabundance of hearsay and the promotion of scandals and conspiracy theories circulating both candidates.

It is important to note that both candidates were not subjected to these assumptions by the media, but rather by each other. Now-President Trump’s radical methodology enables him to present his extreme decisions in what proves to be an effective manner. More telling than his constant misconduct and banter with other politicians is the fact that he has made the impossible possible when it comes to the norms of political campaigns.

The 2016 election was an enormous spectacle of child’s play. With widespread media coverage that only fueled the egos of Trump and Clinton’s campaigns, both acted differently from the ordinary debate professionalism. Both individuals were found to go over time, speaking overturn, uttering nuances to spite the other, and figuratively clawing at each other.

With formality, established in early American history, gone, these campaigns have become a boxing ring of words where purposeful declarations and action plans are absolute.

From calling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email scandal “worse than Watergate” to demanding a paid-off version of The Great Wall of China on the southern border of the U.S., Trump’s actions would have been considered immoral and disrespectful in earlier stages of American politics. In the current age, it is normal. How is this normal, and how have the public and debate moderators allowed this to continue?

In political science there is a theory that gives an explanation as to why the shifting of what is considered normal is possible. The Overton Window theory states that there is a window, an imaginary box, set in the middle of the left and right wing that establishes what the public views as normal and is willing to accept.

The theory suggests that if one wants to make the far left or far right seem normal, they would have to start at the extreme to make everything seem normal. President Trump has used this theory to paint his more radical notions as normal by demanding unthinkable legislation. Throughout his presidency, the Overton window has only moved further and further to the right, making everything to the far right seem less radical. This pushing of the political spectrum can also be seen with former President Barack Obama when he declared support for same-sex marriage, making the concept of gay couples seem more plausible.

It is the media’s reports that have fostered a problem that might not be reversible. By reporting what was once radical as usual and what was once normal as radical, the window is moving further to the right, meaning that the Democratic party will in turn be considered radical and unthinkable.

It seems that President Trump aims to make things easier for the Republican Party as they move forward, which is not wrong in any way. It does, however, make things difficult for those who seek to reform the country with the favor of the people. Moreover, with the 2020 elections looming over the country, the Overton window finds itself situated in the middle of the right wing. Of course, the upcoming catfights will pull the window toward a favored party, but if Trump wins the presidency again, what incredible view will become the next normal?