Good Riddance, Fake President. Welcome Back, the Real Thing.
Mr. Fake President:
From first to last, Donald Trump, you were the worst — the worst President, by many magnitudes, “yuge” magnitudes all your own — in the proud annals of American history.
From your scurrilous peddling of the birther hoax about your infinitely superior predecessor Barack Obama, to your ignoble finish — inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, earning you a historic second impeachment! shirking any responsibility to organize the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, earning you the deaths of nearly 400,000 Americans! — well, if you wanted to be President in the worst way….
No need to recite the entire litany of your misdeeds and depredations: They are etched into the hearts and hides of the American people — at least the half who voted for your infinitely superior successor Joe Biden. As for the other half still saluting or excusing you — well, it’s good thing Americans still, somehow, believe in redemption.
And not to forget: Threading your misdeeds and depredations together were your lies. To keep your Ponzi scheme of a presidency going, you had to gin up ever more and more of them. At 1,458 days of your tenure (yesterday), The Washington Post clocked 30,534 lies. And this quantitative measure had a qualitative byproduct, truly tragic: the death of Truth.
Who could have imagined? Not even the most creative Hollywood scenarist could have imagined your story arc. From Inauguration, with your purple prose about “American carnage,” to boffo finish — again, this two-part finish will drive your obituary: inciting an insurrection! consigning so many Americans to die lonely deaths on ventilators! Little did we know: The “carnage” you cited was not a legacy inherited. No, the carnage was yet to come: It was what you were about to deliver yourself, with your misdeeds and depredations and lies. You fancied a spot for yourself at the Mt. Rushmore monument — without a Rushmore moment, without a tenure earning you that spot on the rock. (The absurdity of the scam artist dreaming of Honor!) Instead, from atop the pinnacle of American power, you rained boulders down on the great American experiment in democracy.
All is now revealed. With your odious example and the pandemic’s terrible suffering, all is now revealed with piercing clarity, both in our politics — the corruption, the money-power, the incompetence; and in our culture — the unserious and the berserk, the vulgar and the fake, the falling-off from the moral. And you, Mr. Trump, are the apotheosis of all these (if you will, but you won’t) sins: Hustler #1. I’ve long argued our culture, pop culture especially, explains you as much as our politics. In the 75 years since World War II, America achieved many glories — moonshots, cancer cures — and made real social progress — civil rights for minorities and women, electing our first Black president. But, superpower that we were, we began abusing our power, politically — with unnecessary war, torture, arrogance — and culturally, in a downward-tending, “breaking bad” dynamic (after the “hot” TV series). After years of ever wilder abuse, the “Breaking Bad” culture got its president — you, the “omnifecta of disaster” (as I described you earlier).
Yet, with all our sins now revealed, politically and culturally, there is also revealed something else, gone missing for a long time: the profound need — better than a want, a need — for Redemption, for another chance, the still-there American urge for reinvention. And with this need for Redemption comes a check-list of tasks: reform, repair, rebuilding (lots of re-words). Of course, Redemption also calls for virtues long scorned but crucial to our tasks, virtues like Character, Responsibility, Honor, and yes, Virtue itself — not a scintilla of which you, Mr. Trump, possess — and the lack of which explains our present low state. In sum: Reverse, revise, rewire (more re-words). As for map, well, the general direction is upward. We will also need a moral compass, too, the one we mislaid long ago.
(About one such virtue — character — Politico writes: Trump seems “not to have character at all in the classic sense — an internal compass that operates independently of his garish public performance. Even Nixon had brooding, tormented dimensions of his personality, which suggested a conscience, which in turn led him to try to hide cynical and illegal behavior under a mask of righteous piety. By contrast….revelations about outrageous behavior by Trump in private are not remotely in tension with how he presents himself in public. He acts as if self-absorption, self-delusion, bullying, bluster and disdain for rules or precedents or standards of propriety are all good things.” Stop purring, Mr. Trump.)
To give the Devil his due (hard to do, Mr. Trump), I give you props for two (2) things: forcing NATO allies to pay their fair share to maintain the alliance (always the counting-house with you, Mr. Trump, but, here, rightly so) and your preference for classical over modern architecture (though how a sleaze like you could have classical tastes….).
As a Democrat, existence in the Trump era was like being caught in a hideously bad marriage. With no chance of reconciliation, and unable to bail immediately (you had a four-year lease), the point became: to usefully bide time and ensure, ultimately, a smart divorce. One that was instructive: understanding how this bad marriage came about, understanding the tools at hand (resistance, impeachment, the 25th Amendment). And once able to choose a partner again, to choose wisely — Mr. or Ms. Much Better. (We did, with Joe.)
It is the young people of America, whose future you have blighted, whom you have failed most egregiously. Their confusion and despair would be understandable. To them, I say, as one not-young: We live in reactionary times — reaction to earlier gains for minorities, women, other groups not white male — and Donald Trump was leader of the pack, king of reactionaries. This awful era will pass — if we stay engaged. Young people: Take heart!!
One final question, Mr. Trump, before you go: What was your objective with all your disruption….? What was that ultimate picture in your mind? In Drama, the most revealing question one character can ask another onstage is to square off and ask, directly: “What do you want?” As your end-to-end carnage attests, your ultimate objective had nothing whatsoever to do with democracy.
So, Fake President: As you take your lounge act on the road and possibly to court(s), we head upward. No doubt we will hear from you again — if harnessed, your ego would serve as a new energy source. But we will be busy repairing your damage — as the Poet said, “Shirtsleeves will be rolled / to shreds” — so the majority of us, in the political center, will pay you no never-mind.
Good riddance, Fake President. Thanks to you — yes, I use “thanks” ironically — we have our check-list of tasks, our character-building certification, our compass, the outline of a map. Thanks to you, we now know keenly what we did not fully grasp before: how deeply we value and love our American Democracy — passions which sprang to life as you whacked away at democracy’s sinews. And thanks to your despicable example, we now know once again the qualities we need in a President: Character, Responsibility, Honor — which your successor possesses in abundance. Americans are said not to like a sore loser, but you have been the sorest, Loser, continuing — to the last! — to claim “Fraud” about this last election. (And the absurdity of claiming that any election which you did not win was, ipso facto, a fraud….)
A final note, personal, for the record: Some of us did fully grasp the mortal threat you presented to American Democracy — we who comprised the anti-Trump resistance (also here and here), which sprang to life upon your Inauguration. We now have the hard-earned satisfaction — very hard-earned — of saying to your fiercest supporters, those who vilified us most strenuously, notably the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal: “We told you so.” Every argument we made against you, Mr. Trump, you yourself have borne out. The man who cried “Hoax” and “Fraud” was himself their epitome; the man who swore to protect and defend the Constitution was himself a proto-despot; the man who was a moral void nearly broke our beloved Republic. We called it all and we called it early.
Again, Fake President: Good riddance.
And now: One door closes (at the White House), another door opens….
In one day hence, you will enter the White House: Welcome! The sound you will hear, amid the reduced Inaugural pomp, is the majority of Americans — a bare majority, to be sure — exhaling a cosmic sigh of relief that you got there, and honking their car-horns at the stroke of noon, in lieu of joining you on the Mall, now closed because of recent unpleasant events, also because of the pandemic.
We address you familiarly as Joe, not only because we know you from your many decades of public service, but because we have been praying for you to make it to your Inauguration, and prayers don’t usually stay formal, they get personal. We give thanks that you are, in every important way, the exact counter of your predecessor. After that “walk on the wild side,” we welcome your humanity, your decency, your integrity, your sense of responsibility and duty, and your empathy (no more insults). We cannot wait to sing from a different songbook, in a major and not minor key. We will be there at your elbow as, together, we deliver on your vow to “Build back better”; as together, we enact your impressive team’s impressive blueprints. And we will have your back. Kamala’s, too.
To a New Day!