I believe Donald Trump is an enemy of truth. I believe he’s a con man, a pathological liar — now the most prodigiously documented liar in American history, if not the history of the world. I believe he doesn’t care about, and may not even fully comprehend, the difference between truth and lies, between honesty and mendacity. I believe he has always said what he wants to believe, what he wants others to believe, and what he thinks he can get away with, and always will.
I believe that, as president, Trump was a danger to democracy and the rule of law, precisely because he was a danger to truth. But I believe his lies weren’t necessarily the most damaging ones to our country. Equally harmful, if not more so, were the lies that allowed him to flourish — not just others’ repetition of his lies, but also lies that many told themselves and others to justify not contradicting him — that you can’t take him literally, that you need to look at what he does or that his policies justified it all.
I believe many people didn’t know any better than to believe Trump’s lies, and still don’t. But I believe that the ignorance, intellectual indolence or hatred of those who don’t know better can’t excuse the failures of those who do, who could have said something, but didn’t because they felt it too inconvenient, unpleasant or politically perilous to do so. I believe it’s good, and I’m grateful, that some who were politically aligned with him are speaking out against him now. But I believe the country could have been saved great anguish had they done so before.
At one time, I believed, because I wanted to believe, that Trump could be a good president, or at least a passable one. I wanted to believe that, because I believed in many of the policies he, his party and his administration have professed to believe in. I still believe in many of these policies, even though Trump’s incompetence and perfidy have discredited them. And I believed that those who rise to the great office of the presidency often rise to the occasion, out of appreciation of something greater than themselves, and that Trump would do the same.
I believe I was wrong. I believe that not because I want to, but because the facts — mostly, Trump’s own words and actions — showed otherwise. As time went on, I came to believe Trump was a terrible president, and could never become a good one, and that, indeed, he was far worse than many of his critics, whom I had disagreed with, had made him out to be.
I came to believe Trump was mentally, psychologically and morally unfit for the high office he held, and, indeed, any position of public (or even private) trust. I came to believe he will go down in history as the worst president America ever had. I came to believe that his pathologies fostered division and hatred, and potentially violence, and rendered him incapable of achieving persuasion and consensus, and therefore incapable of successful governance.
And I came to believe he was a grave threat to democracy and the rule of law, and that he cared about neither.
I believe Trump’s conduct during the past 78 days alone has proved these views correct, and it makes me deeply sad. I believe his deceitful attacks on the election results, and by extension on the Constitution he swore to uphold, were the metastasis of his moral deficiencies and psychological disorders. As for the insurrection he incited, I believe it never should have come to that, but thanks to Trump (and his enablers), it was always going to come to that.
I believe there is hope for the country, because I believe truth wins out in the end. I believe it’s already starting to. I believe many who supported Trump are beginning to see their mistakes, and that his influence will wane as he fades into history as a pariah.
I believe that, even though we may disagree, strongly, about policy issues of the day, there is more that should unite us than divide us: belief in democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and religion, equality under the law and so many other things. I believe that if we always remember that, our democracy will survive.
I believe President-elect Joe Biden understands that, and will act accordingly. And although four short years ago, I could have never imagined myself saying so, and even though I will disagree with many policies he may enact, I believe that, for this simple reason, he will serve America well.
I believe we should pray for our new president, and pray for our country.