Trump is a bigot who stoked the racist fears and prejudices of his base to engender support, a misogynist who has been accused of sexual assault by almost 20 women and a documented liar. All of the above are examples of verifiable criticisms rooted in facts and evidence that have bearing on his character and/or a substantive effect on policies and legislation that can affect the American people. However, there is a growing trend of criticisms of Trump that are the opposite of the above. These criticisms are not verifiable, do not have a tangible bearing on his character or policy decisions and seem to be rooted in malice rather than fact.
This type of criticism is often cloaked as either “humor” or “professional” opinions. You can see it almost every night on the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” when he shows pictures of Trump in tight-fitting clothes to mock his appearance, or in the guise of serious journalism on “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” when he repeatedly calls Trump words like “crazy” or “psycho” and convenes a panel of psychiatrists to “diagnose” Trump. These types of criticisms abound. Trump is criticized as fat, lazy, ugly, dumb, crazy, unstable, as having dementia or narcissistic personality disorder, or as having different types of kinks. These type of criticisms are usually found coming from liberal/progressive TV personalities who seem to want to prove just how much they are against Trump. The harsher they are, the more they are rebelling against the administration. Audiences see this as speaking truth to power. The impulse to stoop to this type of criticism is powerful. People want someone who they see as doing harm to their country to be taken down a peg, or 10. This seems especially enticing in the wake of reports and TV appearances that suggest Trump has a need to be liked by others. However, in the effort to one-up someone seen as harmful, the people who resort to these types of criticisms actually end up doing more harm than good.
One reason these criticisms are harmful is because many of them have no actual bearing on Trump’s ability to be president, instead acting as a distraction to important policy issues. Most importantly, they can further marginalize those who occupy or are seen as occupying the identities that are recklessly placed onto Trump. Cultural forces such as fatphobia, mental health stigma and kink shaming are real and have tangible effects on those who experience them.
People who are seen as fat, in addition to being openly and routinely mocked in popular culture, are especially marginalized when it comes to medical care. Fat people are seen as inherently unhealthy and many times, when they go to the doctor, any medical issues they may have are attributed to their weight. This can lead to inadequate care and even misdiagnosis. Criticizing Trump as fat is, in many cases, equating his disgusting personality with his body type.
Mental health stigma is also real and pervasive. People with mental illnesses are seen as more violent than the rest of the population, when in actuality they are more likely to be the victims of crime. Mental illness is so often relegated to “craziness” or “instability” that people who are actually suffering delay seeking help and getting treatment, or never end up doing so at all. Criticizing Trump as mentally ill can cause people to believe that anyone with a mental illness is unstable, unreliable and unfit for a powerful position.
Criticizing Trump for what he may or may not enjoy sexually can further the stigma against people with kinks. Trump’s supposed kinks are presented as evidence of a deviant personality, when in reality what you consensually enjoy has no bearing on your character. It is also mind-boggling that people criticize Trump more for allegedly liking golden showers than for allegedly assaulting, groping and raping women, which, in my opinion does reflect on his character and who he is as a leader.
One of my biggest objections to criticizing Trump in these ways is because it excuses why Trump is the way he is. Writing him off as ugly or crazy and using those as reasons for why he is racist or a liar lets the culture that created him off the hook. Trump is a rich, white man who received million plus dollar loans from his father and still claims he built his business from the ground up. He was ridiculously unqualified to be president but still won over one of the most politically qualified candidates in history. He got to where he was by abusing his power – a power that was left unchecked because of his privilege and position in society. He is a racist who was raised by an alleged member of the KKK. Calling him crazy is to excuse the racism this country was built on and the mindsets that are still prevalent enough today to get Trump elected.
But yeah, he’s probably a bad president because he’s fat.