When Donald Trump ran and surprisingly won in 2016, one might have explained that result by saying that he was a novelty candidate and that people who were tired of the usual two-party fare presented to them found him refreshingly different and were willing to give him a chance in the hope that he would shake things up. Sure, he said racist and xenophobic things during the campaign, but people may have given him the benefit of the doubt, that he was just saying these things to get elected and that once he won, the dignity of the office would moderate his rhetoric and he would govern responsibly. The parade of women who came forward to accuse him of grotesque behavior was harder to explain away but clearly many were willing to indulge in a ‘boys will be boys’ tolerant attitude.
That expectation of better behavior was shredded right from the beginning. Trump turned out to be worse, far worse, than anyone could have imagined, ripping up all the norms of governing and treating the government like a private company that he could use for his own benefit and the benefit of his family. The grifting by the entire family was blatant right from the beginning. He placed loyalty to him over competence and got rid of anyone whom he suspected of not being willing to unquestioningly follow his orders or cater too his whims or was nit sufficiently obsequious and flattering, thus depriving the government of the expertise that career professionals bring to their jobs.There was constant churning of people in the White House, the cabinet, and at the higher levels of the government bureaucracy.
His serial lying was completely out of control and his denial of reality was astonishing to behold. There was the growing feeling in some quarters, including me, that surely this would be too much for any reasonable person and that many of the people who had voted for him in 2016 would have buyer’s remorse and vote against him this time around. The first sign that this may have been too naive an expectation was when almost the entire hierarchy of the Republican Party including all its representatives in Congress, people who had been in politics for some time and presumably had their own independent bases of support, abjectly caved to his demands that they do whatever he wanted them to do. They went even further, enthusiastically amplifying his corrosive and divisive rhetoric and supporting his cruel actions. This must have gone a long way towards persuading his supporters that what he was doing was not wrong.
The fact that Trump got more than 70 million votes, more than any Republican candidate in history, clearly shows that what happened in 2016 was not an aberration, that there is a vast number of people willing to eagerly buy the toxic product he and the Republican Party is selling. While the nation’s leaders and many of its people loudly boast that the US is the greatest nation ever because it stands for the highest values, Trump and the Republicans have shown this to be a lie, dragging it to the bottom of the swamp while all the while claiming that the water is fine.
Fortunately, while there were a few more million people who rejected that message than supported it, that is small comfort.
Trump has revealed the id of the nation and it is ugly.