Are Scandals the New Normal in Politics?

By Oscar Barnes


United States President Donald Trump has been engulfed in yet another major scandal—one with allegations much more understandable and clear than those brought against Trump in the Mueller Report—causing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to announce an impeachment inquiry. In essence, this case is about how Trump spoke with a foreign government, Ukraine, to get dirt on a political opponent, Joe Biden. 

    In another age, something like this would be unheard of. Even though this incident has prompted Democrats to start an impeachment inquiry, most people feel that these scandals are the new norm. Why is this? Does this spell doom for the future?

   This phenomenon all comes down to a concept known as the Overton window. Imagine a yard stick with progressive beliefs on the left and conservative beliefs on the right. As you go farther to the left or right, you get to more extreme beliefs. The Overton window is the section of the yardstick that is socially acceptable to operate in, often limiting what politicians can do if they do not want repercussions. Though, like most things, the Overton window can be adjusted, either for good or for ill. Attitudes towards race have changed a lot throughout American history, moving the Overton window towards the left, which is why there is arguably much greater racial equality now than there was in the age of slavery before the Civil War. However, the Overton window can also be adjusted in a bad way, normalizing activity that is immoral and goes against our basic laws.

   Trump is a prime example of the harm that comes with the normalization of  immoral actions. In the early days of American politics, a single scandal could be career-ending. Nowadays, as we have seen with Trump, a politician can survive many scandals largely unscathed. This sets a bad example for future presidents and other politicians, empowering some to feel that once they are in office, they are above the law. This normalization of immoral behavior threatens to undo social advances America has made over the years. Trump’s demeaning talk about women, third-world countries, and Baltimore—a city with an ethnic majority of African Americans—has led to a normalization and acceptance of racial, gender, and social inequality. Trump’s election has led to a major step back in progress in America, normalizing illegal and immoral actions that once would have been met with bipartisan outcry and anger. The American people must realize that Trump’s countless scandals are not normal and not acceptable.