The fever has broken: The country will eventually recover

When Donald Trump took the reins of power four years ago, he brought an unusual style of governing to the presidency. When most presidents take office, they try to bring the American people together to achieve their policy objectives. Trump was having none of that. He made it clear that anyone who did not agree with him was an enemy to be scorned. As his first Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, correctly put it: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people–does not even try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”

While many politicians have a tendency to spin the truth to their advantage, Trump has made lying a true art form. One fact checker has catalogued 29,508 false or misleading claims made by the President from his inauguration to November 5, 2020.

Since the 2020 election, Trump has blended his divisiveness and untruthfulness into a dangerous and toxic combination that strikes at the very heart of our democracy. Despite filing more than 60 lawsuits attacking election results in swing states, he and his followers were unable to provide any competent evidence of election fraud or irregularity. Judges with Republican and Democrat backgrounds toss his lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court, including the Justices he appointed, rebuffed him twice.

Trump turned to Brad Raffensperger, the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia, for help. He threatened, begged, implored the Georgia official to “find” just enough extra votes to put him over the top in that state. Raffensperger refused to take part in Trump’s unlawful scheme.

Trump then turned to the streets, calling upon his hard core supporters, as well as every variety of extremist–Proud Boys, QAnon conspiracists, several brands of white nationalists–to help him overturn the election. He urged them to be at Congress for the electoral vote count on January 6, promising it would be “wild.” When thousands assembled before him that morning, he urged them to converge on the Capitol to “fight like hell” for him.

And fight like hell they did. Armed with zip ties to hogtie Mike Pence and other law-abiding quarry, they stormed the Capitol, the most sacred symbol of our democracy. Incited to action by Trump’s lies and exhortations, they overcame the Capitol Police, trashed the interior of that hallowed building, terrorized members of both parties and both Houses of Congress and made a mockery of our republican form of government. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) says Trump was “delighted” and “excited” by the riotous activity of his supporters.

What came to my mind as I watched the shameful episode unfold on network television was my visit to West Berlin in the summer of 1964. I’d heard of the Reichstag fire in 1933 that was used by the Nationalist Socialist Party to tighten its grip on power in Germany. That building was the meeting place for Germany’s legislative body and a powerful symbol of the Weimar Republic. When I saw the building in 1964, it was a forlorn, scorched hulk on a weed-infested lot.

The physical damage to our seat of government was not nearly as severe, but the injury inflicted upon the American psyche was a savage blow, both to Americans and to the world. Even during the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag had not been able to breach and disgrace that sacred building. But there it was on television for all to see–casting its shameful white supremacist shadow over the citadel of freedom.

After all of the lies, division and disgrace brought upon the United States by President Trump, I sense that this last seditious act has finally broken the fever that he has inflicted upon the country. I predict that when my fellow citizens have had a chance to reflect on this outrage and consider the other damage he has visited on our great land, he will become a vague and ugly memory. We have gone through similar feverish times before and survived. America will recover from the Trump years and be better for it.

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4 thoughts on “The fever has broken: The country will eventually recover”

  1. I was struck by how accurately Abraham Lincoln prophesized the future, and our present, in his “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838.” I wish I could be as optimistic as you. Keep up the good work; I enjoy your columns. James D. Holman

    1. Thanks, James. The country has suffered severe moral lapses at times in the past and recovered after we realized the injury to our bedrock principles. I think we are at that point again. Just in case, I’ve got my fingers crossed. Best wishes, Jim

  2. When I read this post last month I was cautiously optimistic. But I no longer remain so. If a sitting President who has left office can’t be convicted by his own party, who remain scared because their own personal political power is more important, I truly fear for our nation. If the President’s behavior hasn’t risen to an impeachable offense through inciting an insurrection and takeover of the Capitol and there is no punishment, then what’s to keep every single President that follows, regardless of Party affiliation, from commiting crimes and receiving a “hall pass” because they have left office? The law and order President has not remotely abided by law and order. Intimidation, witness tampering and a host of behaviors unfitting any leader of a great nation may become the norm.

    1. Thanks, Marti. I think the country at large is starting to awaken to the tremendous damage that Trump has caused as President. The impeachment hearing is helping the growing number of independent voters in the country to understand the extend of his malevolent influence. The hearing is unlikely to have a substantial influence on Trump’s true believers in the near term, but I think it will weaken his less committed supporters. As more of his misconduct comes to light in the next few months, there will be a shift away from Trumpism. That will also be helped by virtue of what I anticipate will be a return to responsible, competent governing by the Biden Administration. Most of the Republican Senators seem at this point to be wedded to Trump but that is because they think that is where the base is and they are afraid to speak out. Several who want to be President are taking the long view and speaking out against Trump, namely Liz Cheney and Ben Sasse. They are taking lots of heat from their voters right now, but that may not be the case in a year or so. It will take some time for the dust to settle, but I believe we are definitely headed in the right direction. Jim

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