Tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades.
That’s what it took to clear peaceful protestors from Lafayette Square last June to make way for a presidential photo-op outside of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.
Pesky protesters properly banished, President Trump held a Bible high, waving it about as the cameras rolled.
It’s a sure bet that the President has little working knowledge of the book he brandished that day. It contains, for instance, these words spoken by Jesus Himself: “So in everything do to others as you would have them do unto you.”
It may take more than tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades, however, to dislodge the just-defeated President from the Oval Office.
The presidential election outcome begs another Scriptural offering: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
It follows that the larger the ego, the greater the fall — and Mr. Trump’s tumble has been, well, bigly.
As 2020 dawned bright and new he was sailing toward re-election, much to the horror of the Democrats and the lion’s share of the media who have hated him with an unrelenting, white-hot passion. Boorish, bumptious, fractious governing style aside, at the start of this election year the President presided over an American economy at full boil: unemployment was at record lows across the country and his beloved stock market charted new highs seemingly with every passing week.
With a chicken stuffed in every pot he was a veritable lock for a second term, no matter which Democratic presidential candidate survived the nomination process to take him on. Every politically savvy person knows the perennial key to electoral success, as strategist James Carville famously pointed out during Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential run: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Then along came COVID-19, crumbling Trump’s vaunted economic “miracle” and killing well over two hundred thousand Americans in the process.
The pandemic isn’t Trump’s fault, God knows. But his inexplicable reaction to the viral crisis is one hundred percent on him.
The on-the-ground responsibility for dealing with the pandemic fell to the individual states, of course — just as in Canada it falls largely to individual provinces. It was Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, not President Trump, who presided over the viral catastrophe that befell New York last spring and killed more than 24,000 people in New York City alone. Yet Cuomo’s popularity went up, despite his many missteps: he said all the right things, and New Yorkers felt reassured and comforted.
In Canada, the province of Quebec has suffered one of the highest subnational COVID death rates in the entire world — yet Premier François Legault’s popularity soared because he was perceived to be taking concrete and credible action.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, hadn’t a clue how to develop a national strategy to properly address the pandemic (he still doesn’t). He suspended Canadian Parliament and cowered in his cottage, emerging daily in designer socks only to mouth reassuring platitudes and to shower the country with hundreds of billions of dollars of freshly printed moolah — and Canadians (so far) love him for it.
Countries like Italy and France and Belgium and the U.K. have been horrifically impacted by the virus; they’ve fared worse than — or at least as bad as — the United States. Yet the citizens of those countries aren’t baying for the heads of their leaders on a platter.
My point is that none of these leaders had much of a clue how to properly deal with the new and mortal threat to their citizens and economies. Nobody did, really. But they were savvy enough to sound the right notes, mostly, and to pay attention to the counsel of experts even as their advice continuously evolved in the face of emerging evidence and more data.
If President Trump had simply done what those leaders did in the face of this viral scourge, he’d be celebrating a second term in office. All he had to do was offer reasonable guidance, get out of the way of public health experts, and project a presidential voice of calm, empathy, and unity.
But he couldn’t do it. Instead he embarked on an arrogant, rude, dismissive, Fauci-belittling, hoax-amplifying, mask-denying, bleach-sunlight-hydroxychloroquine-endorsing approach that can be summed up in a single word: stupid. One word doesn’t do it justice, really. It deserves at least five, for emphasis: stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.
And it cost him his presidency.
Trump would have been well-served by a Carville-esque advisor slapping him repeatedly upside the head and telling him that this election cycle was different: “It’s the pandemic, stupid.” But none of the flunkies and toadies surrounding him were capable of doing that, even if they had dared.
It wouldn’t have mattered much, in any case. Trump’s entire world-view, since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, has been filtered through the solitary and soul-destroying lens of money, money, and more money. A piffling global pandemic was never going to alter that.
“It’s going to disappear,” President Trump said of the pandemic virus late last February. “One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” The virus remains very much with us, however — it’s Trump’s presidency that’s about to disappear into thin air, after Joe Biden walloped him by more than five million votes and more than 80 electoral college tallies.
(The pandemic has been a great leveler, it deserves to be said, reducing even the mighty American President to the level of his fellow citizens. Consider: like many every-day Americans, he got infected with COVID, lost his job, and is about to be evicted from his house. One almost feels sorry for the man.)
President-elect Biden would be well-advised not to read too much into his victory. The only reason he won is because he isn’t Donald Trump — and if it wasn’t for the pandemic he wouldn’t have had a prayer.
Biden leads a party virally infected with woke nonsense like the New Green Deal, gender fluidity, and defund-the-police claptrap; a party yanked hard to the left by the likes of Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez and the Bernie Sanders. Average Americans haven’t got much time for their ideological hooey — they’re too busy holding down two jobs, paying down their mortgages, putting food on the table, squeezing kids through college, and trying to save a few dollars for retirement.
It’s no accident that Trump got elected in the first place, or that he received 71 million votes this year, eight million more than he garnered in 2016. That’s one enormous basket of “deplorables”.
Tom Nichols, writing in The Atlantic last week, advanced this dim view of his fellow Americans:
“Nearly half of the voters have seen Trump in all of his splendor — his infantile tirades, his disastrous and lethal policies, his contempt for democracy in all its forms — and they decided that they wanted more of it…. Now, by picking him again, those voters are showing that they are just like him: angry, spoiled, racially resentful, aggrieved, and willing to die rather than ever admit that they were wrong.”
Margaret Renkl in The New York Times was no less cutting in her assessment:
“But the 71 million people who voted for Donald Trump despite his incompetence, despite his lying, his bullying, his cheating, his racism, despite all the moral failings he proudly flaunts as virtues? Those people aren’t going anywhere, the poison-spewing right-wing media that created them isn’t going anywhere, and Donald Trump himself isn’t going anywhere. And it’s not remotely clear what the rest of us can do about any of that.”
I’m Canadian, so I suppose I have no business beaking off about the American political scene in the first place. But I lived in the U.S. for years — in Colorado, in Mississippi, in North Carolina. And back in the pre-pandemic era when air travel was still a thing (remember those halcyon days?), I journeyed with some frequency to cities like Boston, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and so on. I have acquaintances in all of these places: all of them seemingly reasonable, hard-working men and women of solid intelligence. Some voted for Biden. Some voted for Trump.
None of the latter, suffice it to say, are Clintonesque “deplorables”. They’re not “angry, spoiled, racially resentful, aggrieved, and willing to die rather than ever admit that they were wrong.” They’re just tired of the Democratic party’s bullshit.
The views of Mr. Nichols and Ms. Renkl, unfortunately, represent not just the perspectives of 95 per cent of mainstream media, but of a huge chunk of the Democratic party.
That said, thus far at least Joe Biden has struck appropriate conciliatory notes: “I ran as a proud Democrat,” he declared last Saturday as he addressed the nation. “I will now be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me — as those who did.”
For the sake of America one dearly hopes he holds to that pledge, squelches the leftist hyenas, and governs from the center.
As for Donald Trump not “going anywhere”: Ms. Renkl is indeed correct. The President refuses to concede. Not that it should come as a great surprise: a man like Trump can no more admit defeat than a leopard can change his spots. He’s carrying on as if his presidency hasn’t imploded, loudly alleging but unable to provide any evidence of ballot box corruption. He may have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the Oval Office in the end.
The Dems are understandably outraged by his behaviour; but they’re less understandably obtuse to the rich irony of the situation. After four years of #NotMyPresident and “Russian collusion” hogwash, after four years of working relentlessly to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election, the Democrats are being subjected to President Trump working overtime to undermine the legitimacy of Biden’s election. The chickens, as they say, have come home to roost.
We can only stand and watch, mouths agape, as a truculent Trump, obsessed with his non-existent win and showing zero interest in actually governing — let alone dealing with the pandemic as it spirals completely out of control — lashes out bitterly in all directions, decapitating the leadership of the United States Department of Defense in the process.
All this in America, at the nerve center of the greatest democracy the world has ever known.
It’s quite the spectacle: riveting, inutterably sad… and very, very scary.