Carnage could be a permanent condition, but Trump made it a brand. Between April 10, 2020 and January 3, 2021, Donald Trump either tweeted (or retweeted) the term “China Virus” 44 times. Like Trump’s claim of a “bad” flu for COVID, the coincidence was many times worse amid a population experiencing a thousand deaths a day. The facts have become clearer as Trump will never take responsibility for his American carnage.
From his first days as president to his last, how Trump stoked division, violence, and insurrection. Trump's siege on his enemies, the media, and even the leaders of his own party, who for years ignored the warning signs of what was to come.
Among the many baffling aspects of political tradition, surely the strangest must be the widely held conviction that the occupant of the Oval Office determines the fate of the country and of the planet. Call it presidentialism.
Presidentialism is the Big Lie of American politics. It is a far bigger lie than all the middling lies that Donald Trump told over the course of his four years in the White House.
Every time I hear a U.S. president referred to as “the most powerful man in the world,” I am reminded of that lie. After Biden is inaugurated today, let’s ask Mitch McConnell if our new president is the most powerful man in the world. Or we might pose the same question to Xi Jinping or Jeff Bezos or — heck, why not — Pope Francis.
The last days of the Trump presidency should suffice to refute the Big Lie. The supposedly most powerful man in the world attempted to overturn the results of the November 2020 election and failed. In a despicable act, hooligans trashed the Capitol. They never came close to overturning the Constitutional order.
Presidentialism is American Exceptionalism transferred to the arena of politics. It is a vast and dangerous delusion. The sooner we wake up to that fact the better for our democracy.
Although 2020 was a rotten year, our Republic has survived worse. Trump’s departure from office is cause for celebration. But Dr. King’s “giant triplets” remain, posing a greater threat to our democracy than Trump ever did even at his most devious. Should we be serious about addressing that threat, we must look not to the White House but to ourselves.