We don’t know yet whether the loser of the 2020 presidential election will quietly slip out of a side door of the White House on January 20 or whether a bunch of Secret Service agents will wrestle the hefty Trump as he clings to the bedpost kicking and pleading, “No, no. I won, I won. Let go of me, damn’t.”
Either way, Donald Trump’s reign will end ingloriously as he and his failed administration get tossed onto the scrap heap of history.
Notwithstanding his ignominy, we Americans owe Trump a debt of gratitude for enabling us to re-learn vital lessons that seem to have been lost to us over the past 40 years. President Ronald Reagan in his 1981 inaugural address, said famously, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem.”
What Reagan started, Trump finished. On his path to autocracy, he’s cowed his own political party so it no longer knows what it stands for; demanded loyalty to himself alone; illegally augmented his personal wealth; belittled military leaders and invented the “deep state.”
He has single-handedly engendered the greatest internal threat to our Republic since the Civil War. Half our nation is not speaking to the other half, as is Congress.
In times of peace and prosperity, perhaps it is natural we take for granted our Republic’s foundational principles. Four years ago our invincible (we thought) Ship of State hit an iceberg. Our ship listed and lost its steerage way, but did not sink. Looking back over the past 46 months at the flotsam Trump left behind, it’s apparent that Trump has failed abjectly, leaving virtually no legacy of accomplishment. Nothing to remember his time in office. Not even a border wall.
73 million Americans voted for Trump for what they thought were good reasons. The other half of America needs to understand why. The best explanation I’ve read for Trump’s support is: “They do not embrace him in spite of the schoolyard insults, Twitter tantrums and conspiracy nonsense, but because of these things,” according to Kevin D. Williamson (11/15/20 Washington Post). As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
So, what are the lessons learned?
o Our Constitution has been tested and withstood terrible adversity. Thanks to our system of checks and balances that disperses power among three branches, it has proved impregnable to Trump’s autocratic destructiveness.
o At a dreadful cost in blood, Blacks have found their voice at the ballot box and in the streets. Trump’s championing of White supremacy has exposed the scope of unvarnished racism in our country. As a Black neighbor said to me, “Trump got the racists to take their hoods off.”
o Trump’s flagrant misogyny has motivated women to fight to achieve elective office like never before.
o Barring immigration and immigrants weakens our society. Among all of us, they love liberty more. Their hard work and determination strengthens our country. Always has.
o Americans need and want an ethical, experienced, intelligent, responsive leader in the White House. Trump is void of any virtues.
o Shockingly, however, only half of the electorate can tell the difference, apparently.
o We do actually need a national government. The 50 states can do some things well, but not fight infectious diseases, deal with natural disasters, set immigration policy, support scientific research, guarantee health care or deliver the mail.
o We’ve learned that the federal deficit is not a meaningful fiscal parameter except when the President is a Democrat.
o Science and politics do not mix.
o America can’t be run like a business; to do so is antithetical to democracy for which there is no “bottom line.”
o There is no “deep state.” The Civil Service that operates our national government is made of dedicated professional bureaucrats who form the bedrock underpinning our Republic.
o Trump has set a new standard of presidential incompetence. He has elevated the historical standing of his 44 predecessors.
o We have witnessed in this century the dissolution of the Republican Party as the standard bearer of conservatism into group of subservients obedient to and terrified of Trump. Except for a few, these Republicans have sacrificed their ability to speak for themselves in furtherance of their loyalty to Trump.
o The political chaos, cynicism and mistrust over recent administrations makes it evident that many Americans, regardless of their political leanings, have little idea of how our Republic works, where sovereignty lies, the structure of our national government and the content of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
o Of paramount importance is schools doing a better job teaching our kids the Bill of Rights, in particular the First Amendment, and that can’t start too young. Trump will fade fast, like a match on a wet campfire. But he has given us a teaching moment, so let’s use it to teach young people to have faith in government and take pride in public service.