Our uncanny, national experience with Donald Trump and his indulgent supporters has subjected Americans to an inside view of how autocracy can grow from deterioration of a constitutional democracy. There are ways to describe the disturbing phenomenon, many of which I’ve cited in previous posts. A simple query occurred to me last week as the coronavirus threatened our health while enlightening us in the way Trump behaves. It is this: is there anything Trump supporters would find embarrassing about this unfit president?
Anything? Apparently, his uninformed statements, mean-spirited pronouncements, trigger-happy reactions, trust of hunches over science, mistreatment of long time friends and allies, and disregard for the Constitution seem not to bother them. Like parents who coddle whatever misbehavior their unruly child inflicts on the neighbors, all Republican senators except one openly exhibited their irresponsibility in the impeachment acquittal. Unspoken was American senators’ sacrifice of the country to avoid Trump’s vengeance by tweets and payback in the next election.
On a happier note, I’ve carefully watched the daily presentations of the Pence task force and found it to have a more refreshingly credible, professional, and careful voice to come out of the White House in some time. Except for Pence’s obligatory slavish praise for Trump, this competent group seems focused on coronavirus facts rather than ways to blame Obama, on precision in what is conveyed, and on the backbone to contradict Trump’s continual misinformation. How encouraging it is to have grownups around the table!
They appear to know the secret to keeping their concentration on expertise, facts, and solutions rather than hunches and political blaming. Unlike Trump and most of the rest of us, they have a deep knowledge of the science and logistics involved. Further, they seem to have minimized how much the president makes the complicated matter more difficult and Americans more confused. Their best tactic going forward might be to keep Trump out of the room, away from microphones, and mute on giving advice.
His presidency is well-suited for the largely fact-free rallies that subject his equally fact-free bellowing base to unending campaigning. In that setting, he needn’t attend to facts, difficult decisions, or a presidential base that extends to an entire country, just simply to those more angry than informed. His type of campaigning offers him latitude for his untruthful and often frankly stupid behavior. It does not require the thoughtfulness so critical in his day job, so even massive disinformation in a rally ostensibly does less damage than if he were speaking from what he’s transformed into his Offal Office (forgive me; that’s not a typo).
Donald Trump, with the backing and protection of Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, and most Republicans is not just a foolish and temporary irritant to the country and its carefully designed systems. As long as Trump is in office, he is already and will remain an existential threat to what most Americans want to preserve about America. The time is growing shorter for his supporters—particularly the elected officials among them—to reverse the appalling risks they’ve been enabling. The monster Republicans have birthed and developed is already winning.
Their own behavior, as is his, is not remotely ethical, much less patriotic, for it is devastatingly injurious to America and is, therefore, unambiguously un-American.