Increasingly, the White House operates not so much as the head of the executive branch but as a site for Trump’s personal and political breakdowns. It is hard to see that any official business is performed in an administration obsessed with covering Trump’s lies, catering to his ego, attacking his opponents and providing emotional refuge for those whose identity depends on venerating the Confederate flag and excusing systemic racism. There is almost no actual policy happening and no rationale for the administration’s continued existence.
Let’s turn, then, to the Senate Republicans who voted to acquit him (that would be everyone except Utah Sen. Mitt Romney), the House Republicans who mouthed Russian propaganda in his defense and the horde of right-wing pundits and media figures who both financially sustain and humiliate themselves with never-ending rationalizations for a president who struggles to complete a sentence, let alone think through complex policy matters.
The elected Republicans should be confronted at every turn by mainstream media and voters:
- Do you think President Trump is fit even to complete his term?
- Do you regret supporting his exoneration in the Ukraine scandal?
- How can you support a president who clings to the Confederate flag and defends the killing of African Americans by police by saying more white people are killed?
- How can the administration address the pandemic when members of the administration heap scorn on Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases?
- Why are you supporting a president who refused to respond to Russian bounties placed on U.S. servicemen and women?
- Does the self-enrichment and corruption bother you, even a little?
- Is there anything he could do or say that would cause you to renounce him?
The right-wing media cohort — including both those helplessly corrupted by the money and fame that goes with feeding Trump’s frenzied base and those with pretensions of respectability (the “but Gorsuch” crowd, before Gorsuch disappointed them) — have other concerns. As Laura Ingraham (who reportedly believes “we have to be prepared for Trump losing”) and the utterly tone deaf Ivanka Trump (“Find something new!”) advise, they will have to come up with their next act. As in the Obama administration, they will likely become the conspiratorialists and rancid critics of the new administration. No accusation will be too far-fetched, no source of gossip turned away.
The spineless sycophants — who attacked Never Trumpers for their show of integrity, who fashioned disingenuous excuses for Trump and who concoct elaborate rationalizations to oppose voting for former vice president Joe Biden (Socialist!) — will swear up and down that Hillary Clinton would have been worse. (Really — denying a pandemic? Inducing supporters not to wear lifesaving masks? Embracing white nationalists? Staffing the White House with a cohort of incompetents? Giving Vladimir Putin a free pass on targeting U.S. troops?) Some will insist they were against Trump all along. Some (a tiny few) will show some modicum of remorse, and some will try to ignore the past four years of intellectual hackery. What “polite society” (if there is such a thing) must not do is forget their role in sustaining an un-American president whose incompetency has resulted in more than 100,000 unnecessary deaths.
The bill is coming due for those who sold their souls to Trump. The voters may boot out a good number of incumbents. The rest of us, however, will have learned how through silence and collaboration a cadre of well-educated comfortable men and women can rationalize and excuse anything. It has been a frightening lesson in human weakness and propensity to accommodate themselves to evil, which should remind us the only thing that really matters in public life is character.