The Painful Demise of a Would-Be Autocrat

Alan Zendell, November 14, 2020

He began as merely an annoying gadfly. With an ego large enough to fill a stadium, he believed the world was hanging on his opinions. He flouted social norms, bragged about his alleged prowess with women, tweeted racist opinions about criminal cases he knew nothing about, and promulgated the Barack Obama birther conspiracy. Most of us just ignored his insults and total lack of class back then, but then he announced he was running for president.

He began his campaign by demonizing Mexicans, his name for people from any of the twenty-one countries in South and Central America. He attacked Democrats as Socialists and Communists, and assigned each of his Republican opponents an offensive, insulting nickname. He offended Gold Star families, mimicked the disabled, and questioned the patriotism of anyone who refused to kneel at his feet. He reached out to White Supremacists and other assorted racists, trashed the traditional media, and encouraged gun nuts to rise up and defend him against them.

He displayed a ruthlessness rarely seen in American politics, a bare-knuckled, take-no-prisoners approach to everything he did. He lied, slandered, and libeled, demonstrating a complete lack of compassion for anyone but himself as he created and exacerbated divisions in American society that had lain dormant for decades. He conspired with Roger Ailes, creator of the Fox News Channel to create and disseminate a narrative of alternate facts and conspiracy theories, which metastasized the seeds of discord he planted into a cancer that began eating our country apart from the inside.

Paying no heed to the damage he was doing to American society, he locked children in cages, attacked the Constitution, the Rule of Law, the Judiciary, and the Congress, treating the separation of powers on which our form of government depends like an unfortunate technicality limiting his freedom of action. From his first day as President, he behaved like a fascist bully, purging anyone who disagreed with him who lacked a constituency strong enough to defy him.

He consistently attacked women’s rights and attempted to strip the poorest quartile of Americans of essential services like food assistance and health care. We saw it and shook our heads. When it came time for Americans to write his report card in 2018, they took back their majority in the House of Representatives, flush with optimism, thinking he’d learned a lesson in humility.

Such was our naïvete. We should have realized there was no limit to the depths to which he would stoop to retain power, and with his own party cow-towing at every turn and Democrats unable to agree on a candidate, as 2019 became 2020, it looked like he might somehow win again. Then the pandemic hit; he would have to change his tune, wouldn’t he? His disregard for science had thus far manifested in withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords and slashing environmental regulations at home without regard for the health of our planet.

Now he had a more immediate choice. Would he act to protect Americans from a raging pandemic, or to foster his self-interest? We know now, that he was willing to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of the people he swore to protect, to assure his re-election. He added to the misery of divisiveness and hate he had spawned by fighting against every measure that might have saved lives. 2020 has been a year of daunting challenges, all of which were made worse and intensified by a president who simply couldn’t care less as long as he could indulge his out-of-control narcissism.

He turned the 2020 election into a gladiator fight to the death, except that his opponent refused to play his game. Still, he put us through a kind of Hell we hadn’t seen since Vietnam. In many ways, it was actually worse. Vietnam was the result of a misguided foreign policy, paranoia with regard to China and the Soviet Union, and a collection of bad decisions by many actors. But 2020 was a Donald J. Trump production intended to maximize ratings and attention.

On November 4th, the majority of Americans danced in the streets, the huge weight of Trumpism finally off their backs, or so they thought. Trump will leave the White House in less than ten weeks, but he will continue causing grief and anxiety until the final moment. And even as there is no longer any political gain to ignoring the advice of medical experts, he continues to set the worst possible example for Americans, knowing it will result in at least 100,000 more deaths before a Biden administration can begin to get hold of the pandemic. Donald Trump will be remembered by historians in the same way as Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong Un, someone whose lust for power and wealth always took precedence over the lives and health of his citizens.

If that doesn’t qualify as murder and treason, I don’t know what does.

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2 Responses to The Painful Demise of a Would-Be Autocrat

  1. William Kiehl says:

    One of the more disturbing things about Trump is his complete takeover of the Republican Party. GOP Governors and Congressmen are terrified to disagree with him over anything, even things that make sense such as wearing a mask during a pandemic. They are terrified of primary challenges from the Right, Trump, via Twitter, commands an army of supporters who will go after anyone, especially Reoublicans that Trump deems insufficiency “loyal.” Thus, in the midst of a horrific pandemic with a quarter million dead, we have GOP Governors like DeSantis, Noem and others who still refuse to issue mask mandates in spite of the rising body count.

    Just because Trump will be out of the White House, does not mean he loses control of the Party. There are cracks in the wall, but we need for these Republicans to show some courage, which is a tall order. Trump is a bully and can be faced down, but it takes backbone, which is sadly lacking in today’s GOP. John McCain was not afraid of Trump. McCain was a POW and tortured. He was not afraid of a lying bully like Trump.

    Note to Republicans: take back your party.

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