“Defining deviancy down” was an expression coined by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1993. Moynihan based it on the theory of sociologist Emile Durkheim that there is a limit to the bad behavior that a society can tolerate before it has to start lowering its standards.
Moynihan – and countless conservatives since — applied the slogan to the “moral deregulation” that had eroded families and increased crime. But the expression seems more apt these days to what Donald Trump and other Republicans are doing to American politics.
It’s not just their hate-mongering and bigotry, their lies and small-mindedness. It’s also their juvenile style, played in the gutter. I recall a time when political campaigns were played on high ground, when Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower argued intelligently, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon thoughtfully debated the nation’s future.
But now we have Donald Trump, who said last night that it was “too disgusting” to talk about Hillary Clinton’s use of the bathroom during the last Democratic debate, and that she had got “schlonged” by Barack Obama when she lost to him in the 2008 Democratic primary.
Trump is defining deviance down, morally degrading our politics – and our nation. He is, frankly, disgusting.
By Robert Reich (Facebook post)