The Orange Man with Tiny Hands – Why Personality Politics is Bad for Protest


Donald J. Trump built his presidential campaign upon the battered reputations of his opponents. Political giants did not last long against the property mogul before they were forsaken by their supporters, and eventually their Party. They were left embarrassed and clinging to what remained of their careers, but not at the feet of a powerful political force, rather a bloated businessman-turned-TV-star trained in the art of character assassination. Trump quipped his way to the GOP nomination with playground insults like ‘Lyin’ Ted’, ‘Little Marco, and ‘Low Energy Jeb’, and lest we forget the photo-shopped picture he tweeted of his Republican opponent, Jeb Bush, picking his nose.

After winning the nomination Trump continued this rhetoric but he began to cut a bit deeper with Hilary Clinton, calling her a ‘nasty woman’ and slandering her by tying Clinton to her husband’s past infidelity. Then followed countless moments in Trump’s presidential campaign that should have been remembered as pivotal to his catastrophic downfall. None were more prevalent than those in which he personally attacked an individual for something that they have no control over, like when he openly mocked a disabled reporter’s appearance, cruelly imitating Serge Kovaleski at a Trump rally during the campaign.

Trump’s hateful speech grew, emboldened by every success, and now bolstered by the power of his office. However, this has not been met without a reaction, and he may be starting to realise that battered reputations do not make a solid foundation for a presidency.

Every day, everywhere he goes, and even where he doesn’t, President Trump has been met by protest. Around the world there have been marches against an administration hailed as malevolent and incompetent. Democratic, free nations should rejoice in this display of unabashed political expression, of citizens utilising their right to protest – however, there are a minority of protestors whose rhetoric is disheartening and seemingly unfocused.

A small number of people are turning up to protests with scribbled signs reading remarks like ‘President Poopy-Pants’ (a sign seen by qmunicate at the protest in Glasgow’s George Square on 30th January). These signs do not seem to provoke thought or communicate a moral message. And they are certainly not relevant to any political discussion, unless Trump has a problem with his bowels that stops him from carrying out his presidential duties? This is a problem that has persisted since well before Trump came to power. In March 2016 the multimedia website Odyssey compiled a list of The Best Protest Signs From Trump Rallies in which four signs out of nine were personal insults about the then candidate’s physical features or habits.

Yes, Donald J. Trump, commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military force, has a fear of stairs and this may seem weird. However, this fear (Bathmophobia) is a very real thing, and if you’re unfortunate enough to have a phobia then you know how serious an effect it can have on your life. Trump cannot choose not to have a phobia, nor can he help having small hands – making fun of anyone over something that cannot help is disgraceful, whomever it is. We cannot condemn his insult-driven speech one moment and then practice it the next.

Furthermore, how can we consider it appropriate to hold up a sign with a silly joke on it while marching next to someone protesting Trump’s allegedly lax view of sexual abuse? If it can be seen in any way to undermine the real issues being protested, then it is hard to justify this behaviour. We should learn our mistakes and realise that using this rhetoric against him does not work. If we try to play him at his own game then we will lose – protestors will be dismissed as bad losers or ‘liberal snowflakes’ and our united voice will become weaker and more divided, demoralised and disenchanted by the lack of results in speaking out against hate.

Our reaction to the implementation of malevolent policy is being watched by the rest of the world; most importantly, it is being watched by those feeling rejected and vulnerable, those looking for hope and compassion. We have to be mindful of the messages that we are sending out. And those who are using this time to hold up a funny sign about Trump’s comb-over while a march against fascism, or against a ‘Muslim ban’, well they belong at a protest as much as Donald Trump belongs in the White House.

Trump won the most powerful political office in the world because he is clever and agonisingly resilient – neither he nor his administration will not be brought to task by cutesy remarks. As long as he is the President of the United States we better treat him like it. What the vast majority of protestors are doing is exemplary in that they are engaging Trump on a political level, challenging him and his administration’s ability to produce meaningful, inclusive policy. They are consistently conscious of holding the President to the standard they expect from that office. They remember that ‘when they go low, we go high’.

[Reiss McInally]

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