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.