Donald Trump often boasts about how he bullied all of the other Republican candidates out of the 2016 presidential election and rallied crowds into chanting peoples’ mean nicknames and slogans with him. There was “Little Marco” Rubio, “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Crooked Hillary” Clinton, and one of the worst, “Pocahontas” for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Trump has nicknames for everyone he doesn’t like or who gets in his way. So many, actually, that Wikipedia users have them broken down into categories such as “media figures” and “foreign leaders” for easy reference. Some people have tried to play his game and call the president names, too. But calling Trump nicknames back is a bad idea, even if it is tempting to bully the bully back.
It’s not easy to ignore him, so we get it. Our country is talking about some major issues, like our health care, tax system, gun safety, and deporting millions of Americans. When he takes a shot and starts calling people names in the middle of these important discussions, it’s hard not to want to fight back. But we can always stand to remember Michelle Obama’s wise advice to take the high road when someone else goes low.
Most recently, Trump attacked California Rep. Maxine Waters in a speech over the weekend, saying:
“Low I.Q. individual,” isn’t exactly a nickname, but it’s obviously a ridiculous insult. Not only was Trump straight up wrong, calling someone “stupid” is mean and elementary. Having someone do that to you in public would hurt and make anyone want to throw a verbal counterpunch. Waters responded to Trump’s bullying in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes saying, “Everybody knows who this bully is. This is a dishonorable human. He is a con man. He came to this job as a con man. I call him ‘Don the Con Man.’”
She added, “All I know is this: If he thinks he can stop me from talking about ‘Impeach 45,’ he’s got another thought coming. I am not intimidated by him. I’m going to keep saying that we need to impeach him.” In this way, calling him a name back is a way to show him that she’s not scared of him and is paying attention to what he’s doing. Waters isn’t the only woman in Congress to have a nickname for the president either. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth calls him “Cadet Bone Spurs,” in reference to the fact that he claimed he couldn’t serve in the military because he had bone spurs in his feet.
You have to admit that Cadet Bone Spurs or Con Man Don are worth a chuckle. But that’s not the way to go if we want to try, at least, to have some civil discourse.
The president isn’t really capable of actual discourse, judging by his Twitter rants to announce policy and attack opponents. Which is why debating him is actually not possible. Remember when he insinuated that New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand would “do anything” in his office to get him onboard with her legislation? Or used the nickname “Fake Tears Schumer” to describe Sen. Chuck Schumer’s reaction to immigrants being detained under Trump’s Muslim ban? Or his entire “Fake News” awards?
These nicknames and “fighting words” serve the president well, or at least his supporters seem to love them. Every time he coins one, memes and tweets emerge as all the alt-right trolls attack Democrats, Republicans Trump doesn’t like, and the watchdog media. Using nicknames might be an effective way for Trump to lower the level of discourse Americans can have about real issues, but Democrats should try to stay away from normalizing the technique. It might feel like fighting fire with fire is necessary, but really it only ends up making the party look just as childish as the president. And that’s likely not something voters will want when they head to the election booths next November to shake Congress up.
While it’s tempting to mock Trump for his appearance, I.Q., failed business ventures, overall health, and inability to emote, stooping to his level makes us just as bad as him and his supporters. Instead of engaging in Twitter wars and spewing nicknames that are then relentlessly covered by the media, Democrats and anyone who wants change should be focusing their efforts on galvanizing the voter base and finding better ways to defeat the Trump administration’s dangerous policies. It makes everyone look out of their minds — like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Billy Eichner just going at it in Times Square. It’s distracting. Amusing, perhaps. But distracting.
It’s understandable why people want to fight back when Trump attacks them in sexist, racist, and plain old cruel ways. But in this case, beating the bully is entirely possible without joining in.