The End of Trump
The shambling boor is finished. He walked away from the podium in the White House press room like a bear shot with a tranquilizing dart, just starting to feel it, shoulders hunched, head lolling. If we are fortunate, the tragic four years of his presidency will end in a month or two of farce, World Wide Wrestling shenanigans with a blustering Giuliani haranguing bored district judges and Melania packing her bags and decamping to Slovenia. Let the “deal maker” go back to selling steaks by mail out of Mar-A-Lago and trolling for suckers on late night shock-jock talk radio. We have all graduated from four years of Trump University, at least 7 million of us none the wiser, but thankfully, enough of us wised up enough to pull the plug on any more episodes of the Trump in the White House show, which jumped the shark long ago. Yes, he will go on talking and tweeting, but not from the Office of the President, not from where we have to listen to him, not from the national stage he was never equal to and which he degraded as a backdrop to his carnival sideshow of grievances, vanities and corruption. The first full-bore criminal deviant president has had his run and is turned out to his tanning bed, his casinos, his shoddy buildings and his mountains of debt. He can build his presidential library in Atlantic City to preserve his semi-literate tweets and dictator photo-ops next to slot machines in the lobby. His executive orders framed along with porn-star settlement agreements.
We had a narrow escape. About 100,000 votes out of many millions. The nation stood on a ledge and then backed away an inch at a time. We are going to be spared the worst consequences of our folly in electing a manifest charlatan. We are never going to experience the disasters he and his enablers were bringing on themselves and us. We have gotten off relatively easily. Precious years have been lost for addressing climate change, billions of tax dollars have been drained from crippled government agencies, children of refugees may never be reunited with their parents, racism and misogyny are resurgent, economic inequity entrenched, political discourse perhaps irretrievably coarsened, and the world community abandoned and adrift, but worse was coming, the complete vulgarization of our social life, the triumph of unrestrained selfishness, the unrelieved dominance of ignorance and bigotry. The ash of this conflagration remains hot but the accelerant is removed. Can Biden lower the temperature as he proposes? Perhaps, perhaps not, but he will not deliberately fan the flames for the pleasure of making a blaze. The pyromaniac of our politics has been defeated, the gasoline can yanked from his hands, and a gentler, kinder man called on to rebuild and restore our damaged and divided union.
America is a country divided, but it has always been divided, from the moment of its foundation to this afternoon. Federalists and Democrats, Jefferson and Hamilton, were divided, and political opponents in the early Republic sometimes shot each other; North and South were divided and were welded together again with blood and carnage, the Mason-Dixon line is a long scar still tender to this day; the South not only failed to come to terms with its slave-owning heritage, it celebrated it with monuments and movies about noble cavaliers serving a lost cause, no sound of the lash, no mention of chattel concubinage and rape. Black men and women walking with their arms linked singing hymns were set upon by dogs and beaten in the street. College students were shot to death on a college campus. Cities burned. The United States has always been divided, and the effort has been to keep it together. The remembered and admired presidents worked to resolve or minimize divisions and succeeded: Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR.
At the start, during his first campaign, Trump sounded like someone who might respond to the unheard and unmet needs of working people, workers in manufacturing and services, office clerks, police and fire fighters, even educators. He promised to pull up workers and energize business leaders both, but all that happened was a massive tax cut for the rich, and a promise of infrastructure spending that evaporated into thin (hot) air. He handed over domestic policy to tax-phobic Free Market anarchists like Paul Ryan and substituted symbolic trade wars with China and Canada for meaningful gains in wages and security. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, champions charter schools, and current Secretary of Labor, ex-corporate lawyer Eugene Scalia (son of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia) built his career helping corporations evade workplace protections (see The New Yorker, Oct. 2020). Reagan wooed union members away from the Democrats, and Trump seduced them a second time, but the Blue Wall went back up with Biden because he has a long, generally positive, history with unions. Community college professor Jill Biden, a long-standing member of the NEA, has promised DeVos will be ousted, and Scalia is likely to follow. Jill’s husband (as Joe Biden likes to style himself) has always been close to unions, much closer than the Clintons. He is not going to be a charismatic champion of union rights, but in a Biden administration unions will be heard. Biden is, what Trump only pretended to be, a deal maker. He is not very exciting, but he gets things done.
We have had two charismatic presidents now back-to-back, Obama and Trump, cheery affirmative charisma and malignant charisma, both men able to sway masses and both very inexperienced in the business of governing. Now we have a plain Joe who has spent his entire adult life in government. Can he succeed where his predecessors failed? Can he pull the country together and reconcile polarized opponents? Let’s see. He is the nearest thing to a Republican of any of the Democrats who had a shot this year. He is definitely not a socialist, not even a progressive. He ran interference for credit card companies and big corporations, he presided over the ritual shaming of Anita Hill, he waffled on civil rights and criminal reform. True, but he never spouted nonsense about building a wall or defunding the police, and he is no apologist for racists and no celebrant of woke righteousness. Can he make peace? I hope so. I am cautiously optimistic. But I am certain he will not deliberately set one half of the country against the other, knowingly promote hatred, inflame, incite, insult, intimidate, abuse. We are finally finished with that brand of verbal incontinence pouring daily from the highest office in the land. I also believe Biden is not the kind of man to condone separating children from their parents as an instrument of policy or an advocate for judicial torture in secret prisons. I am good with Joe. He is an old man who has known, and more importantly felt, loss. He is probably as decent and simple and ordinary as he appears, which is a great gift to us. He is no saint, no great intellect, and he doesn’t have to be. He just needs to be an ordinary Joe for all of us to be benefited, even blessed. What a nightmare these last four years have been. The long wait is over. Trump is finally going and will soon be gone. Deo Gratias.