Four more years of Trump: an American tragedy

No matter what happens in the coming months—to the pandemic, the economy or race relations — this country cannot take four more years of the division that Donald Trump’s presidency has foisted upon us.

President Trump has been effective at taking credit, deserved or not, for getting conservatives on the Supreme Court, passing a tax cut, building a bit of wall and watching the Dow and NASDAQ go up.  

But since his election, he has made no effort to become the president of all the people, none whatever.  

And when called upon to lead the nation in a crisis or two or three, he’s been a failure. Under his angry, confusing leadership, we can’t even agree on how to cope with a deadly plague.

President Trump, who likes using superlatives, especially when assessing himself, has actually become the greatest presidential divider this nation has seen since Abraham Lincoln. But, unlike Trump, Lincoln couldn’t avoid it. He saw the country come apart when all but three Confederate states left the Union before his March 1861 inauguration out of fear his election meant the end of slavery and their prosperity.

The Republican Party of Donald Trump is far different from the party of Lincoln or, for that matter, the party of his most recent Republican predecessors.

George W. Bush prided himself in being “a uniter, not a divider;” his father, the first president Bush, tried to form a “kinder, gentler nation,” than even that of his sunny dispositioned predecessor, Ronald Reagan. They all saw themselves as presidents of all the people and it served them and the country well.

But not Trump.  Our vision of the 45th president is that of an eternally angry man, who deals with the profound issues of the day by making up schoolyard nicknames for his adversaries.  For the faithful, even those embarrassed by the vulgarities and the ignorance, the response is, “he lowered taxes, he put conservatives on the Court, he eliminated restrictions on business.”  Character doesn’t count.

Since his inauguration, when he lied about the size of his audience, Trump has been a dishonest president, deviating from the truth upwards of 17,000 times. But, of course, these numbers, although carefully documented, are from the “fake news,” which is any news that doesn’t consider the president infallible.

The press, we are told constantly, is the enemy of the people and therefore undeserving of its constitutional protection. Free speech begins and ends with his.  

I’ve long wondered why Trump has not even gone through the motions of trying to unite the people and thereby expand his base during his first term.  After all, he did lose the popular vote by about 3 million, but maybe he actually believes those Clinton votes were stolen from him.  For whatever reason, appealing only to 35 or so percent of the electorate and alienating the rest hardly seems like a winning formula.

This failure to expand his base has left Trump in a terrible position as the nation faced the pandemic, racial unrest and a plunging economy.  But instead of dealing firmly with the pandemic from the beginning, Trump largely made it a state problem with 50 interests and 50 solutions in place of a vitally needed national approach to a national calamity.  

He may not be a racist but Trump talks like a racist and acts like one.  He is a skillful  player of the race card, painting the vast majority of sincere demonstrators for equal rights with the same brush as the looters, vandals  and anarchists.  He regularly shows more concern for dead Confederate generals than the living descendants of their slaves.

He can’t even get the nation to unite in an effort to attain a mutually beneficial revival of the economy, as he constantly contradicts and mocks his own medical authorities for urging us to practice caution in making contact with each other.  

Like it or not, the president is the nation’s role model in chief, yet this president refuses to wear a mask in public and obey other precautions.  Some role model.

Trump was the good times president who failed when the going got tough.  In dealing with all of these crises, the president’s top priority has been his reelection.  

That reelection would be a second plague.

 

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.

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