Trump’s Win Smashed the ‘Overton Window’
Post-2016 election liberal elites no longer control the terms of the American political debate
The Overton Window is a term that describes the range of discourse and ideas the public finds acceptable. It is named for Joseph P. Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, who claimed that the political viability of an idea, belief, or policy rests mainly on whether it falls in this window of acceptable discourse — and not the logic or effectiveness of said ideas.
The Overton Window that until a few weeks ago defined American political discourse was relatively small, framed by a set of liberal constraints that have dominated American society and stifled intellectual debate for at least the last five decades.
“They use terms like racist and xenophobic to scare people toward the Left. Then, white-flag Republicans believe the media and go as far Left as they can.”
“Expanding the Overton Window is what left-wing agitators have been doing for ages,” explained Eddie Zipperer, assistant political science professor at Georgia Military College. “They adopt insane fringe positions and systematically move the whole country left,” he added.
Trump’s victory in the presidential election, however, smashed that window with the ferocity of brick hurled from the hands of a Black Lives Matter protester.
“All of a sudden, Trump came along and now the Democrats are on defense. Nobody even knows how to deal with it because it’s so rare,” said Zipperer.
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Until Trump’s successful campaign, any politician or pundit who dared to peek beyond the Overton Window was quickly dragged back inside by the all-too familiar cries of “racist” or “bigot” or “homophobe.”
Indeed, the Overton Window was the central reason so many pundits discounted Trump’s chances for so long. What those pundits hadn’t realized is that for large swathes of the population, the direction of the country had become so unsatisfactory that, desperate to change course, the range of ideas those parts of the public will accept is widening.
Remarkably, many left-leaning media outlets and journalists still haven’t quite figured out what’s happened. Media Matters, that never-ending font of leftist propaganda, published an article on Wednesday titled “Stop Normalizing Hate: Reactionary White Nationalism Doesn’t Equal ‘Populism.'”
“The process by which the media continue to normalize President-Elect Donald Trump and the extreme elements that now define his pending administration is achieved story-by-story, headline-by-headline, and even adjective-by-adjective,” wrote Eric Boehlert.
What Boehlert has yet to realize is that those epithets no longer hold the power they once did. It’s not enough to call Trump or someone like Steve Bannon “white nationalists” and “hateful” when they are demonstrably not those things.
“Some of what Trump did during the campaign may have expanded the window to the Right, but I think the great majority of what he did was expose that the window never looked the way progressives and the media wanted everyone to believe it looked,” noted Zipperer.
“They praise ultra-left-wing radical groups while pretending people like Ted Cruz and Mike Pence are nutjobs way outside the mainstream. They use terms like racist and xenophobic to scare people toward the Left. Then, white-flag Republicans believe the media and go as far Left as they can,” Zipperer said.
Liberals like Boehlert have become all too comfortable with relying on slurs to silence opposition, but it’s no longer enough for him to call “hateful” those who don’t want open borders and recognize the value of America’s fundamentally European, Christian heritage. They must now convince their audience why things like open borders and multiculturalism and Balkanization are desirable.
The 2016 election was often compared to films. One particularly well-known essay referred to it as the “Flight 93 election,” in reference to the film about the plane hijacked on 9/11 whose passengers attempted to regain control of the plane from the terrorists.
Multiple writers also likened the election to the “The Princess Bride,” specifically the famous scene in which the character Vizzini, played by Wallace Shawn, explains that he cannot possibly drink from the cup in front of him, but nor can he possibly drink from the cup in front of the Man in Black — a metaphor for what many viewed as a the poor choices of either Clinton or Trump.
But if the 2016 election can be compared to any fantasy film from the 1980s, then it should be “Labyrinth,” Jim Henson’s 1986 puppet-driven masterpiece in which a young Jennifer Connelly tries to rescue her baby brother from the clutches of the Goblin King, played by David Bowie.
Toward the end of the film, Connelly’s character tells the Goblin King that, “my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!” With these words, the Goblin King is destroyed instantly — and that is what happened in the 2016 election.
Like an army of Jennifer Connellys, the voters made it through the maze of mainstream media propaganda to come face to face with the liberal goblin kings — who, until Nov. 8, ruled the interpretation of current events — and told them loudly and clearly that they no longer have the power to control voters’ perceptions.
“By not caving to media pressure, Trump has created a political spectrum where someone like Marco Rubio can feel comfortably in the middle and not feel the need to move Left,” said Zipperer.