What Really Scared Me About Trump's Speech

Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress, in the House Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 28, 2017. (Photo: Al Drago / The New York Times)Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress, in the House Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 28, 2017. (Photo: Al Drago / The New York Times)

I didn’t watch Donald Trump’s speech Tuesday night, not because I was skipping it in protest, but because I was otherwise engaged. I was on a panel at a bookstore in Chicago, discussing civil disobedience. I didn’t really need to know the content of the speech to know my time would be better spent discussing activation and strategy, rather than drinking my way through another round of “Just How Doomed Are We?” I knew I would get the full rundown when I got home, and catch all the varying takes online in the morning because, well, that’s part of my job. When I did get caught up, I didn’t find much of the news surprising, but as any marginalized person can tell you, you don’t have to be surprised by something to be frightened by it, and here’s what scares me: Trump is upping his game, and we, as resisters, aren’t ready.

Some have raged against the praise Trump has received. I’ve seen many posts and tweets bristling at the notion that actually reading from a teleprompter, and thus not losing his way mid-sentence, made Trump more “presidential” than he’s been in the past, but let’s be real. It does. To acknowledge that, of course, we have to put aside some cultural illusions about what the word “presidential” means. As far as I can tell, most people say it with some nostalgia for presidents they thought were particularly respectable, or even honorable. But as anyone with a sense of history can tell you, there is nothing inherently elegant or admirable about the presidency.

If you give the matter some thought, I’m sure you won’t have to reach far for examples of presidents who don’t match any lofty standard one might like to attach to “the leader of the free world” or the commander-in-chief of the US military. But truly, to have an honest conversation, we have to de-romanticize that office, and what it means for a…

Read more