There’s a word you may be hearing more often in political discussions: “normalize.” It’s popular among those who refuse to treat Donald Trump as a “normal” president-elect with legitimate policies and positions, rather than some kind of irredeemable bigot.
As a conservative who didn’t vote for Trump, I recognize there are reasons to be wary of him. But I’ve noticed this effort on the left to reject him has also crossed over into ab-normalizing some mainstream beliefs on the right, as represented by Trump’s cabinet picks.
Consider the reaction to Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt has been derided as a climate change “denier,” a slur that intentionally echoes the label given those who do not believe the Holocaust took place.
What evidence is there that Pruitt “denies” climate change? The focus, from a New York Times story about his appointment on down to a blog post on Greenpeace’s website, is on this section of an op-ed Pruitt co-authored this year in the National Review:
“(G)lobal warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”
So, Pruitt’s “denial” appears to be pointing out there is debate. Not about whether global warming is real, or whether mankind contributes to it, but only about “the degree and extent” of these things.
Importantly, Pruitt didn’t offer this argument about a particular environmental policy or proposal. Rather, he was criticizing Democratic state attorneys general for threatening to sue companies that dare to disagree about the “degree and extent” of man-made global warming. One need not be a “denier,” or even a Republican, to see this is an abuse of prosecutorial power.
Then there is Andy Puzder, the fast-food executive Trump tapped to be labor secretary. Puzder’s thought-crime is disagreeing with progressivists’ push for a national minimum wage of $15 an hour.
As head of a company whose restaurants include Hardee’s, Puzder argues such a move would lead to job losses as firms instead replaced human workers with machines. It’s an argument echoed by a number of economists, particularly those with a conservative bent.
The Labor Department’s mission is, among other things, to further “the welfare” of workers and those seeking work. Backing a proposal that could kill jobs may not serve that mission; opposing it certainly doesn’t disqualify one from fulfilling it. It’s just a different approach, albeit one some folks on the left want to “abnormalize.”
Betsy DeVos, nominated to be education secretary, draws progressivists’ ire because she believes in choices for students and competition for schools. Tom Price, the Georgian appointed to lead Health and Human Services, is similarly branded unfit because he holds the conservative belief that government involvement is what ails our health system.
These are not the kind of beliefs that should banish their holders from serving their country. They are the kind of beliefs held by voters who gave Trump more than 300 electoral votes, maintained Republican majorities in Congress and kept the GOP in charge of most state governments.
They just might be more “normal” than some people want to admit.