Donald Trump is good with name-calling zingers: Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, and Little Marco top the list.
Trump’s names ring immature but often capture underlying feelings or impressions about the object of his derision. Trump then strengthens the public’s underlying negative feelings through relentless and brutal repetition.
What should progressives and Never Trumpers call Donald, if anything? Cynical, Snide, Condescending, Little, Cruel, Petty, Petulant, Vindictive, Sour, Smug, Dishonest … the list of negative adjectives that describe some aspect of Donald Trump could fill pages.
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff suggests the public refer to Donald as “Minority President Trump,” as in: Trump won a minority of votes cast. This would delegitimize Trump as president and get under Trump’s skin — both important goals — but the word “minority” seems confusing. The word “minority” is associated with racial or ethnic minorities in many of our brains and “minority” does not adequately capture the universe of problems associated with Trump.
As an alternative, the Indivisible movement should constantly and consistently describe Trump as “unqualified” and “embarrassing.” (“Unfit” may also be an apt label, although one gets the impression that someone becomes “unfit” — implying they were once fit — while someone who is unqualified has always been unqualified.) These descriptors are true and will unfortunately likely remain true. Trump is unqualified to be president because of
- His lack of experience,
- His lies,
- His cabinet and aide choices,
- His lack of curiosity,
- His authoritarian tendencies,
- The way he treats groups of people he is sworn to serve,
- His lack of discipline,
- His and his staff’s ethical and legal violations,
- His personal attacks,
- His conduct,
- His constantly shifting policy positions,
- What he is doing to America’s reputation,
- His hypocrisy,
- His disregard for America’s institutions of government,
- His complete lack of respect for American values, and
- His disregard for the norms that allow a government of and for the people to function.
The reasons are endless. And it is embarrassing.
Naming Trump as the unqualified president that he is has several benefits. First, nearly every action Trump has taken since the beginning of his campaign supports the label. This holds true regardless of Trump’s motivations, whether calculated cynicism, stupidity, diversion, or something else. This means the label can be applied in a blanket fashion across all or most of the Trump Administration’s actions in a given day.Having an effective blanket label will help mitigate against the administration’s deluge of true, false, important,and trivial information.
The truth of Trump’s lack of qualifications to be president — and the blanket application of this truth — will reinforce the “unqualified” label. Members of the Indivisible movement need to do their part persistently using the “unqualified” label stick at every possible opportunity.*
Second, relentlessly showing how Trump is unqualified – and relentlessly naming how unqualified he is by associating the word “unqualified” with “Trump” – will ultimately make it harder for members of the Republican establishment to support him. Citizens who voted for Trump are already beginning to agree Trump is unqualified and embarrassing, a particularly relevant detail for Republican lawmakers.
Splintering Republican establishment support for Trump – and in particular congressional Republican support for Trump – is crucial in the coming months and years. For many practical purposes, it does not matter that Trump is president; what matters is that Republicans are undermining the system of checks established by the Framers in the U.S. Constitution. Republican Senators and House members are enablers who have given Trump free range over policy directions, cabinet picks, and other major decisions despite Trump’s lack of qualifications and unpopularity. These members of Congress are betraying our country for cheap political gain with select party extremists. It does not have to be like this, and the Indivisible movement can play a pivotal role to break the cycle of betrayal and Trump enabling.
Finally, it is important – for the future of the Republic and the future of America’s place on the world stage – that members of the public show that we are embarrassed by our president. It is one thing to be led by an unqualified buffoon. It is much worse to normalize him. And while most members of the Indivisible movement are outraged at our President, outrage against national leaders is a fairly normal part of democracy. Embarrassment is not.
We are embarrassed, and outraged and scared, that our country has placed an entirely unqualified person in the Oval Office. We will not let it happen again.
*If Trump somehow develops presidential qualifications, we will all be better off and can happily drop the “unqualified” label.