Trump’s Polarizing Presidentialism, Poeticized by Eminem by Kate Jamison @ Boston University
The Trump Administration has done an excellent job of staying present in the media, between the president’s tweets threatening to start a nuclear war with North Korea to the viral video of him throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans. His responses to social and political issues on Twitter have received plenty of backlash from civilians and celebrities alike, but this week Eminem took criticism of Trump to the next level. At Tuesday’s BET Hip-Hop Awards, the rapper used his platform to share a 4.5 minute long rap about the president.
The icy lyrics highlight two of the biggest complaints about how Trumpism is threatening democracy in the United States: 1. the increasing polarization between the two parties, and 2. fundamental divisions over membership and status in the political community, influenced by race and economic equality.
- Polarized 2-party presidentialism.
In the current political climate, everything becomes a divisive issue. Key characteristics of this drastic split are tribal partisanship and growth in executive power. Those who still support President Trump and those who greatly oppose him both do so with largely groupthink arguments and diatribes. The constant overturning of cabinet positions and the large number of executive orders Trump has issued both point to at least the beginning of a growth in executive power.
Democrats and those against Trump are turning to social media to express how much they miss President Obama, a figure symbolic of progress and hope that many fear is becoming undone with the new administration. Eminem gives his own salute to the past president, urging that “we better give Obama props ‘cause what we got in office now is a kamikaze that will probably cause a nuclear holocaust.” This is pointing to a complaint from the left that Trump turns to Twitter to start petty arguments instead of doing tangible work like President Obama did. Eminem claims, “All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather cause a Twitter storm,” likely referring to the very little attention the White House has given to the latest events in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas.
- Civic membership and status: race & inequality.
In the Rustow reading we discussed that a political community must have certain united boundaries necessary for democracy to function. Trumpism is alienating minority groups and polarizing communities based on race and racial attitudes. A huge example of this would be the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi riots earlier this year. Many of these extremists were Trump supporters, or even thought that Trump did not go far enough in his comments on race. These were people who actively promote racism and hate-driven rhetoric, and Trump did not speak out against the messages they spread. A more recent example is Colin Kaepernick and the other NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem at games to call attention to racial injustice throughout the country. President Trump condemned these actions as unpatriotic, inspiring Eminem’s line: “F— that, this is for Colin, ball up a fist and keep that s— balled.”
The intensified distinctions Trumpism is causing between political identities doesn’t just apply to racism. Socioeconomic differences are being focused on a lot in this political climate, especially because Trump was already so independently wealthy. His lifestyle choices, especially his trips to his golf courses are critiqued by the rapper: “He says he wants to lower our taxes, then who’s going to pay for his extravagant trips back and forth with his fam to his golf resorts and his mansions?”
A political identity that is not addressed in Eminem’s rap is the gender divide, which has increased especially with all of the allegations of sexual assault by Trump that surfaced during the election. Still, the rapper does an excellent job of highlighting the feelings of inequality of groups with differing political identity and how Trumpism is causing these divides.
Eminem ends his rap with a line that shows exactly how polarizing the political climate under Trumpism has become: “Any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line, you’re either for or against, and if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split on who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this.” as he raises his middle finger.