Column

Sean Spicer’s Dance Moves Prove There’s No Accountability for Trump Acolytes

Can we go back to shunning the people who implement the president’s racist policies?

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Published in
2 min readSep 20, 2019

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Photo: Eric McCandless/Getty

FFor a while there it seemed like the people who were caught doing awful things might not be allowed back into civil society: Kristjen Nielsen — the woman who implemented Donald Trump’s family separation policy — was shouted down while eating at a Mexican restaurant; former press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant by the owner; and Mitch McConnell was heckled as he walked through a parking lot.

Ah, the good old days.

Two former Trump acolytes landed high-profile gigs this week: One-time press secretary Sean Spicer shimmied for the first (and last) time on Dancing With The Stars and The Atlantic announced Nielsen as a headliner for their popular Ideas Festival.

Turns out you can rip babies from their mothers’ arms and put them in cages and still be invited to speak on stage as a public intellectual. You can lie to the American people over and again and get a nice little TV gig.

The shame is no longer just theirs, it’s ours too. Because every time we allow people like Nielson or Spicer back onto our screens or into public spaces without holding them to account, we are sending the message that what they did was okay, and that we will forget. And right now, that’s the last thing we can afford to do.

The humanitarian crisis at the border has shown no signs of abating, the president continues to be a racist leviathan, and the people who work in the White House have no reason to fear ostracization upon their exit from public service.

At least, I suppose, we can stop pretending that “cancel culture” is a thing — for every comic who rightfully loses a job for saying something horrifically racist, a former Trump administration official finds new employment.

As important as political change is, we can’t stop there. Trump voters should be shamed because what they’re doing is shameful. Those in his administration should never be able to show their faces in public without protest. And the Republicans who support him should have to carry that stigma for the rest of their lives.

If you think that’s over the top or cruel, I encourage you to go take a look at some of the pictures of asylum seekers in detention centers, to watch a video of a traumatized toddler after months away from their parents, or to read descriptions of babies without diapers soiling themselves.

It’s time to get back to the business of shunning.

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Jessica Valenti
GEN
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.