Welcome back. If you’re reading this, I assume you got through Part the First. If you’re not offended or sufficiently angered/disgusted yet, feel free to keep reading!
To recap, since 2008, the GOP had been following the policy of reaching out to the fringe in order to stay relevant. But maintaining support from these elements meant constantly having to appear sufficiently right-wing. But the far-right wasn’t convinced and created their own movement and media, which came to be called the “alt-right.” To any informed observer, it was a thinly-veiled white supremacist movement.
By 2016, this culminated in the crisis that was Trump. Whereas mainstream Republicans could only flirt with fringe movements, Trump was one of their biggest speakers. Whereas Republicans could only pretend to be “mavericks” or outsiders with fresh ideas, Trump was an outsider. Whereas Republicans could flirt with racism and violence, they had to stop short of condoning it. Trump had no such qualms or restrictions.
This made Trump attractive to impressionable voters who seemed to think his brand of “speak first, think never” rhetoric was refreshing. To the bigots and “alt-right,” it was even more attractive. As David Duke, Richard Spencer, and a slew of other notorious white supremacists would attest, Trump was the man who was bringing their politics into the mainstream.
As Duke said at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia:
“We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.“
And who can forget Spencer’s transparent “sig heil” moment when the 2016 election was announced? “Hail Trump! Hail our victory!” he said to a house that began issuing the Nazi salute. It was not hard at all to see why they thought Trump was their man. His entire campaign was launched on the promise of deporting 11 million Mexican immigrants, building a border wall, banning Muslim immigration, and putting “America First.”
To white supremacists, the meaning of these dog whistles and slogans was clear. To those who find such thinking repugnant, Trump’s message was also clear. But there was always a sliver of ambiguity and inconsistency that the weak-willed, weak-minded, and self-serving were willing to exploit to pretend that their support of Trump didn’t make them racists.
Once again, the Republican party was forced to make a decision. Would they break with politics as usual and denounce the beast they helped create? Our would they maintain the delusion that they could control it and try to use it to get what they wanted more than anything – a repeal of Obamacare, more deregulation, and more tax cuts for the rich?
In true cynical and cowardly fashion, the GOP flipped completely and embraced Donald Trump. One by one, they lined up to bend the knee and celebrate the coronation of their new king. The uneasy nature of this was captured perfectly in the photo (shown above) of Romney having dinner with Trump. While Trump beams the smile of the gloating victor, Romney feigns a smile that fails to hide his obvious unease.
This trend would continue through Trump’s presidency and is even going on today! But first, a short review of Trump’s absolutely shameful record as the 45th President of the US is in order. I think it’s fair to say that it has left a dark cloud over the minds of every compassionate and thinking person in the world.
It all began with a man descending an escalator to kick off what was the undisputed worst campaign in history.
Dumpster Fire at Inception
If elected, Trump declared, he promised to round up 11 million illegals and deport them, ban Muslims immigrants, and put “America First.” As time went on, Trump demonstrated what kind of leader he would be by encouraging violence at his rallies, mocking a disabled reporter, insulting the family of a deceased gold star veteran, inviting Russia to hack government servers, bragging about sexual assault, skulking around Hillary Clinton on-stage, and constantly name-calling his opponents..
While it was hard to imagine, his presidency would prove to be even more shameful and embarrassing. We got a preview of this during the transition. First, there was the incident where a cool and collected President Obama showed Trump around the White House and Trump expressed surprise at all the work the job entailed. This came as a surprise to very few, seeing as how Trump revealed he wanted his VP pick (John Kasich, at the time) to assume all domestic and foreign responsibilities for him.
Then there was his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn intimating to the Russians that Trump would lift the sanctions being imposed by President Obama, which were in response to their hacking DNC and private servers in the hopes of swaying the election in Trump’s favor. This would prove to be the curtain-raiser on the central theme of Trump’s presidency, which was his involvement in the Russian scheme (more on that later).
Once Trump assumed office, he kicked things off with a flagrant display of pettiness and insecurity. Despite winning the election, he felt the need to claim that he only lost the popular vote because “3 to 5 million illegal immigrants voted,” and that his inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s in 2008! He then proceeded to betray some of his biggest promises.
In particular, he appointed a slew of people to key positions in his administration whose sole qualification was that they were friends and contributors to his campaign. He also handed the keys to America’s economic policy over to billionaires from Goldman Sachs. He also made sure that his son-in-law and daughter were tasked with overseeing some of the most important policy decisions. So much for “draining the swamp”!
Things only went downhill from there. Within Trump’s first 100 days, it was clear he was going to accomplish very little of what he promised. The process of “repealing and replacing” of Obamacare because a gong show as Trump shifted the responsibility for the entire process onto Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Ryan, who had absolutely nothing of value to replace Obamacare with (despite having six years to work on it!).
After multiple attempts to force their terrible plan through, which got to the point where they demanded that Congress not even be allowed to read it, they settled instead for trying to kill Obamacare by cutting its funding. Trump then proceeded to offer a sweeping tax cut that favored only the super-rich and left working Americans with nothing. Meanwhile, he refused to divest from his financial holdings or release his tax returns.
Within his first year as President, he also withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines (leading to a standoff with Native Americans that included brutality from militarized police), cut environmental and economic regulations, fired FBI Director James Comey for not dropping the investigation into Flynn, began planning his wall, and withdrew government financial support for pro-choice organizations.
In the summer of 2017, things turned really ugly! On Aug. 11th and 12th, a crowd of neo-Confederates, the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis descended on the town of Charlottesville, Virginia, to hold the “Unite the Right.” Ostensibly, the rally was to protest the removal of Confederate statues, but the crowd quickly made it clear that what they were really protesting was the “removal” (as they saw it) of white culture.
Who can forget the images of crowds sporting the Nazi flag and white power symbols, or the marchers with tiki torches chanting “Jews shall not replace us!” and the Nazi slogan “Blood and Soil!”? Along with the countless Confederate flags, many of the attendants wore red hats or shirts with Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
On August 12th, things turned violent when the Unite the Right crowd diverted from their sanctioned route and grounds in Lee Park and marched to confront counter-protesters nearby. The scene turned violent, with many people hospitalized and one woman (Heather Heyer) was killed by a white supremacist who ran into a crowd of counter-protesters with his car.
For Trump and the GOP, the task could not have been simpler: denounce the Nazi sonsofbitches! But as always, Trump’s response was weak, waffling, and inconsistent. After claiming there was hatred and violence “on both sides” and many of the Unite the Right crowd were “very fine people,” he offered half-hearted and forced condemnations of the hate groups, then went right back to blaming it on the “alt-left.”
The response of the GOP and Trump supporters was equally reprehensible (even now, years afterward). Aside from parsing Trump’s statements to prove that he did condemn the hate groups, they also tried to falsely compartmentalize the crowd into “very fine people” and hate groups, claim it was a “both sides” thing where Antifa and BLM are “just as bad” as Nazis, and ceaselessly repeating internet-based lies about who started what.
The only people who seemed pleased by Trump’s response were (again) David Duke and Richard Spencer. To Duke, Trump’s comments about the “alt-left” were interpreted as vindication: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists,” he tweeted.
Spencer, also via Twitter, claimed “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth. #Charlottesville could have been peaceful, if police did its job.” The situation did not change with the passage of time. Years after the fact, Trump would continue to either half-assedly condemn white supremacists or refuse to, as illustrated by his statement to the Proud Boys during a 2020 election debate: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
One does not have to look far to notice the extreme hypocrisy Trump (and his supporters) have demonstrated when it comes to protests and violence. When protests began over the shooting death of George Floyd and other instances of police brutality, Trump and his supporters quickly moved to condemn the protesters in the most unambiguous terms possible, calling them “looters,” “rioters,” and “thugs.”
Meanwhile, not a word of condemnation was issued for the armed thugs seized the Michigan legislature to protest COVID safety guidelines or plotted to kidnap Governor Whitmer. Neither was he against tear-gassing and shooting protesters with rubber bullets in order to clear the way for a photo op. Trump, a man who was investigated for high crimes and impeached for abuse of power, was suddenly pretending to be a “law and order” president.
In the winter of 2018 and summer of 2019, another rock-bottom low was achieved by Trump, this time in response to mass shootings! On February 14th, 2018, a former students armed with an assault rifle entered Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In what was the deadliest high school shooting in US history, 17 people were murdered and another 17 wounded before the perpetrator was captured and arrested.
A year later, two mass shootings took place within a day of each other in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The former was committed by a white supremacist inspired by the Christchurch mosque mass shooting while the latter involved a deeply-disturbed man with no obvious political/racial agenda. Both men used assault weapons to murder 23 and 9 people (injuring 23 and 41), respectively.
In response, students who had had enough of mass shootings and inaction from their elected officials (who as usual offered nothing but “thoughts and prayers”) stood up and became advocates for gun control and victims of gun violence. Their cause Never Again MSD, caught on nationwide as people heard from teens who witnessed the shooting and countless other victims who were sick and tired of living in fear and being ignored.
The response of Trump and the GOP ranged from predictable to reprehensible. On the one hand, they offered the usual mix of consolation while blaming video games and mental illness while refusing to even talk about gun control. Trump also recommended arming teachers and said of the MSD shooting, “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon.” Nothing says “sympathy for victims of gun violence” more than making it all about and how brave you think you are.
Meanwhile, the NRA took out an attack ad, claiming they were somehow the victims and that a conspiracy between gun control activists, crisis actors, and the media was out to get them. The central feature of it was NRA spokeswoman and despicable shill Dana Loesch threatening all of these NRA-enemies with the words, “your time is running out!”
Trump didn’t wait long to pull his “both sides” argument again. Despite the shootings being inspired by anti-immigrant bigotry, he pretended that white supremacy and Antifa were equally to blame for hatred in America. Two days later, he went back on the campaign trail and laughed during a rally in Florida when a supporter recommended shooting illegal immigrants. He also went to Dayton and El Paso for some photo and video ops, despite being told he was “not welcome.”
In Dayton, he bragged about his administration’s action on gun violence, saying, “We have done much more than most administrations. We’ve actually done a lot. But perhaps more has to be done.” In response to criticisms of his visit be local representatives, Trump’s director of social media (Dan Scavino) fired off a retaliatory remarks via Twitter:
“Very SAD to see Ohio Senator Brown, & Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley – LYING & completely mischaracterizing what took place w/ the President’s visit to Miami Valley Hospital today. They are disgraceful politicians, doing nothing but politicizing a mass shooting, at every turn they can… The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video. They all loved seeing their great President!”
That same day, he stopped in El Paso (despite being told he was “not welcome”) and did everything he could to turn the tragedy into a campaign ad. While visiting the hospital where several of the shooting victims were recovering, he kicked things off by bragging that the crowd size at a rally of his the year before was bigger than Beto O’Rourke’s. He also chastised aides for not letting press in and demanded he be allowed to hold photo ops.
None of the victims would pose with him, so he and Melania took a photo with an orphaned child along with the child’s uncle and aunt, where Trump’s smiling and giving the thumbs up. As he would describe the visit: “We had an amazing day. The love, the respect for the office of the presidency – I wish you could have been in there to see it.”
The doctors who were questioned afterwards said that Trump appeared to “lack empathy.” A far better characterization would be that Trump demonstrated a total disregard for the suffering of others and shamelessly tried to exploit tragedy. He failed because people saw through the transparent attempt, and rather than demonstrate humility, he responded with more of the same pettiness and idle boasts!
If you’ve made this far, kudos and bless you! The third and final installment is one click way!