The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Whether he goes or stays, Trump has done damage that can’t be forgiven

Members of the media gather outside of the White House on Wednesday, as millions of votes have still to be counted. (Oliver Contreras/The Washington Post)

As I write this piece, vote counting continues. And I write it regardless of the outcome of the presidential contest. Although I am pulling for Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris — no surprise to my readers — and even if President Trump is not reelected, I still have something to say about the tragic reshaping of our country by a malignant, narcissist man who occupied the White House for almost four years.

I’m jumping in here because words are being tossed around by some of my colleagues in pundit-land to suggest that this presidential race was just all in good fun, that “boys will be boys,” and that those of us who may be still scowling are making too much of the whole thing.

They blithely overlook or dismiss the argument of those of us who regard Trump as a clear and present danger to our democracy — that through demagoguery he has laid waste to all the aspirations (even if unfulfilled) that we as a country hold dear: e pluribus unum, the American creed, the equality of all people who call this country home.

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I believe with all my being that Trump, the selfish autocrat, has thumbed his nose at all of that. Worse, he has encouraged — no, emboldened — millions of Americans to follow suit.

Whether Trump goes or stays is of little moment.

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He has caused damage to an extent that only a herculean effort by a future president and a dedicated and Constitution-loving Congress can undo.

The bitterness of this election is not an accident — some kind of unforeseen departure from an “old America” to which the nation can return once the keys to the White House are turned over to the next president.

To contend that Americans ignited and exploited by Trump really, really, cross my heart and hope to die, don’t regard their fellow Americans as enemies, that they don’t hate other Americans, and that, after the final results, we won’t end up mad at each other? That is imagining an America that doesn’t exist.

Trump has encouraged Americans to offend each other. He has brought out the worst in us to satisfy his own twisted interests. The outcome of the 2020 election will not settle any of this.

Trump’s character defects, his disgusting behavior beneath the dignity of the presidency, his contempt for honesty and ethical governance have been on display since he entered the White House in 2017. And millions of Americans, as was true in the 2016 election, love what they see.

What should be viewed with alarm is pointed to with pride by his followers.

We find ourselves in this desperate situation because Trump set out, from Day One of his presidency, with the intention of transferring ownership of America’s government from the people to himself.

No American president — from George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, to the Bush father and son, to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — ever attempted such an act of subversion.

So, regardless of the final outcome, there will be no “let bygones be bygones” for me. Trumpism poses a danger for me, my country and people I hold dear as fearful as the evil forces that ended Reconstruction and unleashed racists in white robes and hoods upon my ancestors.

Don’t turn the page, my fellow pundits, including those of a whiter hue. It may be just sport to you and fodder for future thought-provoking commentary that attracts page visits.

As for me, Donald Trump was, is now, and forever will be — along with his disciples — a threat to the nation he does not deserve to lead.

Watch Opinions videos:

Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center warns that the president is doing the work of our foreign adversaries by undermining the legitimacy of the U.S. election. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/The Washington Post)

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Paul Waldman: If you aren’t filled with rage at Trump, you aren’t paying attention

Jennifer Rubin: Trump exploited the cultural divide, not economic unfairness

Colbert I. King: America’s upended rituals, Trump and a day of cosmic decisions

Eric H. Holder Jr. and Michael B. Mukasey: If you can’t think of anything worse than the other side winning, imagine this

Greg Sargent: Trump’s rage at the NBC town hall exposes an ugly truth about 2020