I’ve been thinking about that word—unprecedented. It’s become a buzzword in the 2016 election. Reporters and newsreaders generally frequently use it, but it is most apt regarding the latest outrageous statement by Donald Trump or his spokesliars. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” say reporters. Or, “This is a campaign like no other in our history.”
They may be right. Trump is running the coarsest, most uncivil, least informed and most openly bigoted and violence-inciting campaign in memory. [Hillary Clinton’s campaign is not, in any way, equivalent.]
But I fear that the term “unprecedented” plays into Trump’s hand, and is exactly what his supporters want to hear. They seem him as a game-changer.
He has convinced them that our political and economic systems are “rigged,” and that, as an outsider, he will be the agent of change. His supporters relish the unprecedented nature of his campaign, because they see it as anti-establishment. Who cares that he’s uncouth in an unprecedented way, and that he says outrageous, unprecedented things, laced with an unprecedented level of lying, goes the thinking: He’s doing things and saying things that the “rigged” political establishment has never done. He’s breaking the traditional mold. He is literally re-forming [in the sense of creating something new] political campaigns. And In Trump World, the more outrageous, the better.
Let me just say here that I am not against reform. I support changes in our political and economic system—progressive changes that would be for the greater good, that would promote more small-d democracy and reduce economic inequality. In that sense, unprecedented change would be beneficial. I would welcome that kind of evolutionary, creative revolution.
But the kind of unprecedented-ness [is that even a word?} that we are seeing today– in the form of Donald Trump’s uncountable lies, hateful rhetoric, and radically right-wing policy proposals—is terrifying. If he is successful, his unprecedented style, coupled with his unprecedented, irrational “ideas,” could cause unprecedented chaos in the country and in the world.
We are being conned on an epic scale. The media has enabled Trump in so many ways: Let’s at least think about the language we’re using, and not help him any further.