We Were Trumped!

By Bobbie Kirkhart

Amer­i­cans do not vote direct­ly for their pres­i­dents. We vote for the peo­ple who will vote for our pres­i­dents. Each state is assigned elec­tors, based part­ly on pop­u­la­tion, but each state is assigned an addi­tion­al two elec­toral votes, regard­less of its size. Con­se­quent­ly, a vote from a per­son in a rur­al state has more influ­ence than a vote from an urban­ized area. This sys­tem has giv­en us five pres­i­dents who came in sec­ond in the people’s vote with mixed results. Three have made us ques­tion this sys­tem. With Ruther­ford Hayes, we got Jim Crow law that denied African Amer­i­cans their civ­il rights for more than 100 years. With George W. Bush, we got the Iraq war. With Don­ald Trump, well, we got – Trump!

It is fair to say that Don­ald Trump was the most active pres­i­dent the USA has ever had. A great amount of ener­gy was put into revers­ing every pol­i­cy and alien­ate every friend of his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Oba­ma. There was lit­tle or no restraint in either his actions or his words – per­haps to this day he doesn’t under­stand that there are peo­ple who dis­agree with him. He admit­ted that he did not expect the Unit­ed Nations del­e­gates to laugh when he told them that his admin­is­tra­tion had accom­plished more than any oth­er in U.S. his­to­ry, and it seems like­ly he was not invit­ing ridicule when he won­dered aloud whether inject­ing chlo­rine bleach would cure the coronavirus.

Often these mus­ings were char­ac­ter­ized as lies. Many were, but it is also clear that he has an extra­or­di­nary abil­i­ty to con­vince him­self of his own truth. As it is impos­si­ble to read his mind, the press has lumped them togeth­er as “lies and mis­lead­ing state­ments.” Pres­i­den­tial his­to­ri­an Michael Beschloss said, “I have nev­er seen a pres­i­dent in Amer­i­can his­to­ry who has lied so con­tin­u­ous­ly and so out­ra­geous­ly as Don­ald Trump.”

In any event, with an army of aides, most of whom last­ed for only a few months, he cre­at­ed a con­stant flur­ry of activ­i­ty. Trump com­mu­ni­cat­ed with the Amer­i­can peo­ple large­ly by Twit­ter, where he often had no aide to advise him. From his offi­cial dec­la­ra­tion of can­di­da­cy in June 2015 through the four years of his pres­i­den­cy, he tweet­ed over 34,000 times. Dur­ing his term, those tweets were con­sid­ered to be offi­cial state­ments made by the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. Many tweets were not true. Noto­ri­ous­ly, he often fired peo­ple by send­ing out a pub­lic Tweet, and he fired peo­ple often. The turnover in his exec­u­tive staff was 93%, more than in any first term of the pre­vi­ous five presidents.

Two issues dom­i­nat­ed Trump’s time in office: racism and the coronavirus.

He launched his polit­i­cal career by claim­ing that Barack Oba­ma was born in Kenya and there­fore not eli­gi­ble to be the U.S. pres­i­dent. Trump put his tal­ents at get­ting pub­lic­i­ty into this move­ment and even claimed, false­ly, that he had sent two inves­ti­ga­tors to Hawaii to get Obama’s birth cer­tifi­cate. Despite his promis­es that we would see it soon, it nev­er came.

Dur­ing his pres­i­den­cy, Trump’s dis­dain for non-white peo­ple was nei­ther hid­den nor mit­i­gat­ed. In refer­ring to Latin Amer­i­can immi­grants, he said, “These aren’t peo­ple. These are ani­mals.” When he was pre­sent­ed with a pro­pos­al to increase immi­grants from under­rep­re­sent­ed Haiti and Sub-Saha­ran Africa, he asked, “Why do we want all these peo­ple from ‘shit­hole coun­tries’ com­ing here?” The Unit­ed Nations cit­ed the U.S. gov­ern­ment, say­ing, “U.S. author­i­ties have utter­ly failed to take the steps required to detect, mon­i­tor, and pre­vent racist and xeno­pho­bic inci­dents.

The Trump administration’s ear­li­est act that aggra­vat­ed the virus was the Trump administration’s dis­band­ing of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s Pan­dem­ic Response Team in 2018. In fair­ness, Trump’s peo­ple are not the first to be cor­rect­ed in hind­sight, but once the virus emerged, Trump’s ini­tial response was to belit­tle it. Sev­er­al times in Feb­ru­ary 2020, he pre­dict­ed the virus would dis­ap­pear “mirac­u­lous­ly” by April. As we know, it didn’t work out that way. Per­haps worse than inac­tion was the coun­ter­ac­tion. When the med­ical experts announced that face­masks are effec­tive in retard­ing the spread of the virus and urged all to wear them, Trump imme­di­ate­ly fol­lowed the announce­ment with his belief that a mask is a “per­son­al choice” and that he would not wear one. He repeat­ed­ly held ral­lies of thou­sands of peo­ple with no social dis­tanc­ing and few masks. The new cas­es that came up after such ral­lies proved that they were super spreaders.

It’s hard to think that there is any oth­er expla­na­tion besides the president’s atti­tude and actions for the fact that the Unit­ed States, with approx­i­mate­ly four per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, suf­fers 20 per­cent of the world’s cases.

It is today an open ques­tion as to whether he real­ly believes that he won re-elec­tion. (It was not that close). We know that many of his allies have told him that he had lost, but too many have humored him in his insis­tence that the process was rigged against him.

On Jan­u­ary 6, 2021, Trump held a ral­ly in Wash­ing­ton, exhort­ing his sup­port­ers to march to the capi­tol build­ing where the cer­e­mo­ni­al con­fir­ma­tion of the votes was hap­pen­ing and “stop the steal.” They stormed the Capi­tol, threat­en­ing to kill demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors and chant­i­ng “Hang Mike Pence,” the loy­al Repub­li­can Vice Pres­i­dent, for his cer­e­mo­ni­al part in the event.

As we all know, the coro­n­avirus did not go away in April 2020. Espe­cial­ly now that Trump hasn’t been impeached, he’s insist­ing he won’t go away any time soon either.

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Bob­bie Kirkhart is a past pres­i­dent of the Athe­ist Alliance Inter­na­tion­al and of Athe­ists Unit­ed. She is a founder and past vice pres­i­dent of the Sec­u­lar Coali­tion for Amer­i­ca. She is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to U.S. freethought publications.