In the face of a putrid and poisonous election cycle that ended with Trump’s presidential victory, liberals and conservatives are quick to argue that Americans have fallen prey to a culture of incivility.
It’s true that in the run-up to the presidential election, Donald Trump strategically showcased incivility in his public appearances as a mark of solidarity with many of his white male followers. However, it is a mistake to lump the racism, bigotry, misogyny and ultra-nationalism that Trump has played upon under an obscuring and euphemistic notion of “incivility.” And it is simultaneously a mistake to delegitimize the anger that oppressed people feel about racism, sexism or class exploitation by categorizing protests over these injuries as merely “incivility.”
Understanding the ramifications of current discourses of incivility will be one key to understanding the results of the presidential election and Trump’s ascension. Clearly, Trump’s embrace of incivility (in addition to his embrace of racism and xenophobia) was a winning strategy, one that not only signaled the degree to which the politics of extremism has moved from the fringes to the center of American politics, but also one that turned politics into a spectacle that fed the rating machines of the mainstream media.