The prologue to Trump’s presidential’s obituary


Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States is on his way out.

Al-Tony Gilmore, Ph.D.

Donald Trump was soundly defeated in the presidential election by 74 electoral votes, which included loses in the reliably deep red states of Georgia and Arizona, and lost the popular vote by the landslide number of more than 6 million. He energized the mobilization of Black voters for the largest Black turnout in the history of presidential elections, most fatal to him in the urban areas of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Milwaukee. But the troubling other side of those numbers is that more than 70 million Americans voted for him; record-breaking numbers for a losing candidate, and a substantial core of those votes came from the “cult” component of his followers, meaning their allegiance to him and trust in him has not diminished. With the strength of those constituents, Trump will continue to be the most powerful force in the GOP at the state and U.S. Congressional levels, which means that the GOP leadership, in fear of his political wrath, will not speak out against his bogus, unsubstantiated and outrageous claims that the election was rigged. But, in time, that ultimately will change. What makes this so stunning is that the vote tally clearly discloses that this election was more a referendum on his failed leadership than on that of the GOP at the local, state and national levels, where they outperformed the expectations of the polls, and those of most pundits.

Voters rejected Trump for four years of divisiveness, excessive narcissism, racism, incompetence, fraud, and sustained assaults on constitutional democracy, common sense, decency, and the American ideal. The erosion of norms during Trump’s single term is unprecedented in the history of the American presidency. Virtually on an unrelenting daily basis for four years, his excessively deviant behavior and relaxed relationship with truth have mirrored the world-wide nightmare we continue to witness. Until Biden is inaugurated, this psychologically deranged human being remains the most powerful and dangerous person on earth. Equally disturbing are his political and media enablers who, with minimal dissent, have anointed his failed leadership, and less than a handful have summoned the courage to even admit that he lost the election fair and square. What they realize and are afraid to ignore is the forcefulness of his “cult of personality,” one still sufficiently strong enough to allow him to say or do anything, regardless of how absurd and nonsensical. Nothing, however, can deny that within the White House, Trump is a dead man walking, and his desperate and almost comical last ditch resistance to his imminent destiny brings fresh meaning to the aphorism, “a dying mule always kicks the hardest.”

For now, the GOP remains Trump’s party and though he was soundly defeated by Biden, only “former” GOP elected officials, and those whose appointments he “terminated” are comfortable in criticizing him. Those currently holding office are loathe to take the risk, because they comprehend the mesmerizing influence he has on his cult followers, and fear his ability to turn them against anyone in the GOP who is not loyal, which explains their prolonged silence on his unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud and rigged elections, and extended reluctance to congratulate Joe Biden as the President-elect. Even those in the GOP who have 2024 presidential aspirations, such as Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo and Ted Cruz, among others, hope Trump will just fade away, but understand and have calculated that he is leaving office with unprecedented power, much more than other one term presidents like George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford. The GOP, in effect, is being held hostage by Trump, unable to plan or move forward without his consent. This will cause friction and the tight grip Trump now has on the party will ultimately loosen.

Unfortunately, too often in politics the common good is secondary to reelection, artificially inflated egos and individual political agendas. Much of the GOP leadership, at this point, is uncertain whether a defeated Trump is a liability or an asset, but prefer to play it safe and not cross him too soon, but this posture would most likely change should Trump announce plans to run again in 2024. That’s a double edged $64,000 blade that could create fissures within the GOP. There is a lot of runway between now and 2024, and during that stretch, Trump will be faced with difficult challenges on several levels including the inevitable “confessions” of insiders in his orbit, which will be much more damaging than the leaks that occurred while he was in power, and there are the mounting civil and criminal legal problems he will face in the Southern District of New York. As soon as Trump becomes a private citizen, the uphill fight of his life begins, one where his odds of winning are less than those he had with Biden. The legal shield that has protected him from pending civil and criminal court cases will be gone, and there will be no misguided publicly funded Department of Justice arguments for immunity. He’s on his own dime.

There is also Joe Biden. If he restores normalcy to America, has good approval ratings, is able to sustain a good economy, effectively confronts a divided country, the climate crisis, racial inequalities, listens to the concerns of rural and non-college educated whites, and strategically exploits the changing demographics in America, which suggests a favorable 2024 battleground map for Democrats, that – should it evolve – may be too much for Trump or any Republican to overcome.

Moreover, it is inconceivable that should Trump run again – without the advantages of an incumbent – that he would not face other formidable GOP candidates in the primaries. Only Grover Cleveland has been able to lose the presidency as an incumbent and later win reelection. But Cleveland won the popular vote plurality in all three elections. Trump lost in both by wide margins. Also Cleveland did not have a track record as controversial as that of a first term Donald Trump. The next four years, with Trump in exile, will allow for it all to be digested during more normal times, when there is more time to consider and correct the circumstances that led to a demagogue winning the nation’s highest political office.

H.L. Mencken, a cynical writer of democracy, may have best described the demagogue as one “who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” While Mencken’s contemptuous opinions of ordinary citizens reflected his elitism, devaluing of common sense and intellectual arrogance, they are instructive in understanding why rural and working people, whose needs, hopes and fears have been ignored by Democrats and Republicans, voted for Trump. Far too many Democrats and traditional Republicans speak about these ordinary people without knowing them or having a clue as to who they really are. Trump’s rise as a demagogue must be analyzed through the prism of that dynamic, and Biden would do well to address that void in the Democratic party. Trump went too far and the coronavirus pandemic – not the grievances of Black people – as writer Jon Katz explains, is why Trump failed “in the same way that protagonists in Greek drama always fail.” In a concentrated period of time, his lying and bullying became “too much, too often, too obvious.” It was not a “hoax of the Democratic party” and it did not as he promised, “go away quickly.”

The crimes, violations, misdeeds, vulgarity, and abuses of power during Trump’s presidency will all be revisited in the research and publications of scholars, essays of journalists, memoirs of political officials, lecture halls of professors, bars, restaurants, halls of labor unions, conversations in pool rooms, barbershops, beauty salons, social gatherings, and most of all in the minds and memories of those who survived it. In these places and spaces the record of his presidency will live in infamy as much as December 7, 1941. Thus, the prologue of Trump’s presidential obituary is obliged to include:

  • Failed Covid-19 responses directly resulting in the deaths of American citizens

  • Abuse of the pardon power

  • Obliterating of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution

  • Nepotism at the highest level of government

  • Politicizing of the military

  • Bribery of a foreign government for personal gain and Impeachment

  • Undermining of consensus reached within the U.S. intelligience agencies

  • Using government resources for partisan and personal ends

  • Interfering in investigations of the Department of Justice

  • Countless lifetime appointments of politically filtered “unqualified” federal judges

  • Politicizing of the diplomatic and foreign services

  • Attacking and defaming the character of judges with whom he disagrees

  • Framing of all political opponents not only as enemies but as un-American

  • Refusing to release his income taxes and paying virtually no income taxes for years

  • Abuse of appointment power

  • Terminations of political appointees for having opinions with which he disagrees

  • Branding of respected media as fake news and the enemy of the people

  • Obliterating traditions and protocols of Congressional oversight

  • Making racialized appeals and attacks

  • Continued appeals to White Supremacy, Homophobia, Transphobia and Xenophobia

  • Embracing authoritarianism

  • Unaddressed sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying

  • Disclosures of corrupt family business dealings

  • Transparent collusion with Russia and Obstruction of Justice

  • Insulting of America’s most trusted allies and of respected international alliances

  • The most prolific pathological liar in the history of American politics

  • Bold and corrupt attempts to overturn a legitimate presidential election

  • Resisting the legitimate Biden transition to the presidency

  • Summoning state lawmakers to the White House to overturn the election results

While it will take a well-funded curator to archive the volume of atrocities, obscenities and crimes against decency committed by Trump during his term in office, through his speeches, public statements and tweets, some will remain more memorable than others : On climate change, “It’s really cold outside, … we could use a big fat dose of global warming.” “There are good folks on both sides,” was his observation of the neo-Nazi invasion of Charlottesville. “They’re suckers and losers,” he commented on soldiers whose sacrifice in the military was the loss of their lives in defense of our nation. “POW’s are not war heroes, I like people who were not captured” he opined when maligning John McCain. “Sons of bitches” was his label for NFL players who sought to peacefully protest. “He did not come to my inauguration, and he did not come to my State of the Union speeches,” was his explanation for not paying final respect to John Lewis. “I’ve done more for ‘the Blacks’ than anyone since Abraham Lincoln” came from the mouth of the most racist president since Woodrow Wilson. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crimes, they’re rapists,” were the words he wrapped around his campaign flag pole when characterizing undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. When asked at the Helsinki Summit if he believed his own intelligence or the Russian president when it came to allegations of Russian meddling in the elections, without hesitation he replied, “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.” During a closed-door meeting with congressional leaders and Cabinet members, he referred to Haiti, El Salvador and an assortment of African nations as “shithole countries.” And, of course, the finale he spewed during the presidential debates when he admonished the extreme right-wing Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

Speaking of enablers and double-standards, of all the transgressions listed, two observations cannot be ignored. The lips of Trump’s GOP enablers were sealed and rarely was a word of dissent or rebuke uttered and, secondly, had Barack Obama ever done anything remotely close to Trump’s serial violations of presidential decorum, ethics and expectations, he would have been summarily impeached and removed from office by these same GOP congresspersons who said nothing about Trump’s abhorrent behavior.

Every road has got to end somewhere, and on January 20, at 12 noon, the curtain will close on the Trump presidency, though not likely on Trump himself. For the short term he will remain influential, but his political strength will not be the same. Once demagogues are toppled, they rarely regain power, and the legal protections and immunities of the Chief Executive in federal government will not transfer to Mar-a-Lago or to Trump Towers. He will have his day in court and the public will learn more than ever about his unscrupulous and dishonorable business practices and immoral character.

Following Grover Cleveland’s defeat in the presidential election of 1888, his wife, Frances reportedly told a White House staff member, “Now Jerry, I want you to take care of all the furniture and ornaments, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again. We’re coming back four years from today” and they did. Trump should be advised to take all of his belongings with him and if Melania shares those same ambitions, both should be warned that the Bidens – unlike Motel 6 – will not be leaving a light on.