In 2017, Donald Trump began his presidency decrying a period of “American carnage” that did not exist. Four long years later, we now know that Trump was speaking prospectively — he told us what he would do to the United States. Every one of his nearly 1500 days in office was a prelude to the violence and destruction we saw on Wednesday, January 6.
For many of us, that Trump would dismantle our institutions, sully the presidency and harm Americans was never a foregone conclusion. Few of us had the imagination to understand just what those predictions would actually mean: unprecedented division, mass death and economic calamity.
Trump’s amorality and inhumanity has cost as many Americans lives as we lost in the Second World War. Last spring, many of us were gut-punched when we surpassed our losses in the Vietnam War. The death toll will continue to mount. Even with the best expectations and hopes for Joe Biden’s administration, we will lose hundreds of thousands more before we fully contain Covid-19.
The first three years of Trump’s presidency were a prelude to our disastrous 2020. From the moment he entered the Oval Office, Trump’s lackeys used the power of the presidency and the force of the federal government to pursue un-American policies. They tried to elevate people like Steve Bannon to the National Security Council. Step by step, they dismantled core governmental functions or left them to lie fallow.
As Bannon himself once reportedly pointed out, he’s a Leninist. His purpose in government, and outside it, is to burn institutions to the ground. While Trump is neither articulate enough nor intellectually capable enough of designing the country’s descent, he was more than happy to allow those around him to use his name, and the authority of office, to do it on his behalf.
By the time the coronavirus pandemic hit American shores, Trump’s government was incapable and unwilling to confront it. Despite understanding the danger of Covd-19, he actively rejected attempts to mitigate its spread and effects. Once the disease took full control of the country, as he surely knew it would, Trump blamed the Chinese, Dr Anthony Fauci, and state and local officials, all while Americans died by the tens of thousands a month.
Trump’s estrangement from reality — and the willingness of all but a handful of Republican elected officials to go along with him — allowed our healthcare system and our economy to succumb to the dual shots of an imbecilic leader and a deadly virus.
Now the collaborators have begun their rodent-like attempts to flee the SS Trump. Leading Republicans such as Senator Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are joined by thousands of apparatchiks as accomplices to Trump’s behavior and failures. As we survey this American carnage — Trump’s American carnage — each and every Republican who complied when they should have objected, who stood silently when they should have spoken out, who rationalized Trump, made excuses for him or praised “tax cuts and judges” has a stain on their collective hands and consciences. No amount of scrubbing will wash away their shame.
Despite every objective measure of Trump’s failure, 74 million Americans believed he was worthy of a second term or a better option than Joe Biden. That millions voted for Trump isn’t surprising; it’s why so many believed, and believe to this day, that he was a credible choice to retain the White House.
Trump lost a free and fair election to Biden. It wasn’t close, either in the Electoral College or the popular vote. Despite these facts, he and an increasingly bizarre set of sycophants convinced most Republicans that Biden had lost and, in fact, stolen the White House. Those same collaborators who aided and abetted Trump stood quietly and hoped the storm would pass them by.
It didn’t. Instead, two weeks ago, inspired by Trump, thousands of his supporters — described by many as domestic terrorists — stormed and sacked the United States Capitol. They came within moments of catching up with members of Congress. It proved to most Americans what a few of us have known for many years: The fight against Trump and Trumpism is a long-term, existential battle for the soul of the United States. We cannot afford to lose one more election.
While Trump opened the gates of hell and smirked as he watched the flames engulf us, his actions have roused tens of millions of Americans to the defense of their country. For the first time in years, perhaps decades, we see citizen activism on the rise and on the march. For too long we slept, but we are wide awake now. We will not hesitate, we will not quit and we will not rest until the scourge that is Trumpism is driven from our land.
Reed Galen is co-founder of The Lincoln Project. Follow him on Twitter @reedgalen