Chelsea Clinton is being wrongly attacked on social media for speaking the truth. In an in-depth interview with The Guardian, the former first daughter said of Trump’s planned visit to the United Kingdom, scheduled for July: “If I lived in Britain I would show up to protest, because I don’t agree with what he’s doing to degrade what it means to be an American.”
Then came Fox News — and even media outlets not on the right — taking her quote out of context, with headlines blaring: “Chelsea Clinton says Trump ‘degrades what it means to be an American.'”
In reality the quote, that began with Clinton first speaking of her own activism in attending “multiple protests” in the United States since Trump won, did not say Trump had been effective at degrading what it means to be American. But she was warning that Trump was in fact trying to do just that.
Clinton is 100% correct. Trump has clearly attempted to effectively turn the United States into Trumpistan — a nation where policies are based on bigotry, where the truth doesn’t matter and American values of tolerance and pluralism are no more.
Just look at Trump’s attempts at a Muslim ban, his efforts to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military and his demonization and outright lies surrounding immigrants that began the very first day of his campaign with his false claim that Mexico was “sending” rapists to America.
And there are Trump’s continued attacks on the First Amendment and our media. He has even tried to use the apparatus of the federal government to punish The Washington Post by raising the postage costs for Amazon, which has the same owner.
If those who opposed Trump had remained silent after he took power, Trump may have well succeeded at degrading what it meant to be American. But Trump didn’t, because of Clinton and the millions of others who took to the streets and voting booths to prevent that from happening. Literally the day after Trump was sworn in, we saw massive marches across the nation led by women opposed to Trump, in numbers far exceeding the crowd that witnessed Trump’s inauguration.
And since then we have seen people take to the streets, the airports and polling places to make it clear that we will not allow Trump to degrade what it means to be American. That’s why in January 2017, when Trump first tried to implement his bigoted Muslim ban, thousands and thousands of American spontaneously went to airports and rallied in the streets in opposition.
Beyond the protests, we’ve seen those who oppose Trump take to the polls. In December Democrats won a headline-grabbing victory in Alabama, electing to the US Senate the first Democrat from that state in 25 years. Then came March’s stunning special-election victory by a Democrat in a Pennsylvania congressional district Trump carried by more than 20 points in 2016. Since Trump took office, Democrats have flipped over 40 state legislative seats from red to blue.
Clinton might have been alluding to the view from outside of America that Trump has degraded our nation’s reputation on the world stage. Sadly, that appears to be true. With Trump’s “America alone” strategy — pulling out of the Iran deal despite our European allies urging us to remain it, for example — our allies don’t trust us and our enemies may not even fear us.
Why would they? Trump’s an erratic, non-stop lie machine. As the Washington Post recently quantified, Trump has made over 3,000 misleading or false statements (or lies, as I call them) to the American people since he took office.
The hope is that our allies understand that Trump doesn’t define what it means to be an American. That is defined by the American people. And to that point, poll after poll makes it clear a majority of Americans disapprove of Trump’s work as president. Even more telling is that in recent polls, those who strongly disapprove of Trump are nearly double the number of those who strongly approve of him.
In her Guardian interview, Clinton also urged that we speak out against Trump’s unleashing of hate and bigotry so that “we don’t normalize it” as we “try to detoxify what has been unleashed.” She added, “if we don’t, we leave a vacuum. And I think the darkness fills that vacuum.”
She is absolutely right. And each step we take in this battle is another important step in ensuring that Trump doesn’t end up actually degrading what it means to be an American.