Donald Trump relishes serving his audiences a fact-free cocktail of misogyny, racism, victimization fantasies, conspiracy theories, and a brutish “us-against-them” mentality.
One of The Donald’s favorite expressions of that toxic brew is “libel-bullying”: serial threats of legal action against those who criticize or disagree with him. Trump has promised to prosecute Hillary Clinton for… we’re not sure exactly what; and vowed to take legal action against a myriad of other folks including his dozen sexual assault accusers, numerous media outlets, super-PACs, and the creator of unflattering (though hilarious) sculptures of him. And to foster this riot of libel bullying, Trump has promised that as president he will (somehow) “open up” the libel laws.
Even after a Trump defeat, the fires he’s stoked are unlikely to magically extinguish. Trump’s historic refusal to vow adherence to the election results, a not so veiled reference to physical violence against Hillary Clinton, claims that the election that hasn’t yet taken place was rigged, and an incessant drumbeat of the “Crooked Hillary” fantasies spawned over the years by Fox News and right-wing radio, have inspired some of his followers to threaten armed insurrection if Clinton is elected. All of which signals a whole lot of anger out there.
Already, evidence is mounting of a “Trump Effect” that is pouring the candidate’s vitriol from the 2016 campaign cauldron into the daily lives of school children. Last month, for example, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García launched an NEA campaign to combat the Trump Effect with these words:
“Since Trump entered the race for president last year, educators have witnessed a steady increase in bullying and harassing behavior that mirrors his words and actions on the campaign trail.”1
A report by the non-partisan Southern Poverty Law Center entitled “The Trump Effect//The Impact Of The Presidential Campaign On Our Nation’s Schools” contains findings consistent with those of the NEA.2
It seems likely that some of the parents of these children as well as others among the more strident Trump supporters will need a vent for the rage he has ignited. Short of armed insurrection, it seems likely that many will channel their anger into their personal lives. And what better repository for such combativeness than divorce, which for many folks represents the battle of their lives?
Protracted high-conflict divorces can spell personal and financial disaster for divorcing spouses, and inflict enduring psychological harm upon their children. And given the nature of allegations exchanged in high-conflict divorces, Trump’s libelbullying raises the specter of a new wave of post-judgment libel litigation that will further delay the closure and healing that divorcing parents and their children so desperately
As a divorce lawyer, I feel I owe it to my clients to try to prevent the Trump Effect from contaminating the divorce process. Even Donald Trump might have learned that the one thing that process does not need is more conflict.
A Trump presidency, or even a narrow loss (that the litigious Mr. Trump would almost certainly contest) would perpetuate animosity and belligerence throughout our society, including our family court system. To try and prevent that, we must hope for, and work toward a massive repudiation of Trump’s demagoguery.
That doesn’t mean staying home on Election Day or casting a third-party protest vote. It means voting for Hillary Clinton and encouraging others to do the same—whether you live in a red, blue or purple state—in order to render the repudiation of Trump’s corrosive effect ubiquitous and undeniable.
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