Today is a bizarre day in American politics. In a few short hours, Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.
I say it’s bizarre because I think people need to understand how far removed we are from politics as usual. A lot of conservatives tell me that now I’ll know what it was like for them to live under Obama.
But I don’t think that’s the case. I know what that was like. We had eight years of George W. Bush. Most of us have disagreed with presidents in the past. Maybe we didn’t like the person or we didn’t like their policies (Iraq, economy, healthcare, gay marriage—pick your issue), but there was still a sense of this is our president, and I can voice my complaint and we’ll move forward.
Donald Trump is something else.
A lot has been said about all his antics and the way he antagonizes so many minority groups. I could go on and on. But I think this Politico piece talking with Trump’s biographers offers a fascinating look into his psyche.
The short version: He’s a bully. He likes to pick fights. He pits people against each other. He likes to create chaos so he can find his own advantage. He’ll say or do anything to create a distraction or start a fight. He doesn’t care about what’s true, he only cares about winning. He’s vengeful. And he has an enormous ego.
Now that probably sounds over the top and completely biased. But it also explains a lot of what we’ve seen over the election and in the months since. Trump will pick a fight with anyone. The facts never seem to matter (and I’m not even talking issues we still debate like climate change or taxes; simple things like whether or not Trump thought he was going to win—he’s contradicted himself on that multiple times). Being a winner seems incredibly important to him (he touts the polls where he’s up, until he’s down and then they’re rigged).
Trump’s approval ratings (rigged!) as he enters office tell the whole story. We’ve never had such an unpopular president. Yes, he won, and we have to accept that, but never has a president faced such opposition. And that was before all the hints of scandal with Russia and hacking and all the rest.
And then Trump attacks the media, calling out major news organizations as “fake news.” It’s more than a little ironic, given that Trump himself spent so much time pushing one of the biggest “fake news” stories of the decade when he called for Obama’s birth certificate.
He spent all that time questioning the legitimacy of the sitting president, and now watch as he lashes out at anyone who questions his legitimacy (he’s already done it to civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis).
All of it: The ego, the picking fights, the utter denial of truth, it all makes it very hard to mount any kind of pushback against Donald Trump. Pointing out that he lies doesn’t matter. Getting into a fight with him is exactly what he wants.
But it’s crucial that we do push back. I think it’s especially crucial that conservatives who disagree with Trump push back. It’s one thing for lefty Democrats to protest and whine and complain. That’s expected. But when people who voted for Trump start decrying his antics, then maybe we can get somewhere.
It’s going to be an interesting four years.
People have said we need to give him a chance. He’ll certainly get his chance, but what price will the country have to pay? Will he be able to fix anything, do more than bluster and pick fights? There’s more to being president than dominating the news cycle.
It’s often advised that we tread carefully with politics or stay out of it entirely. And I’ve tried to be careful this cycle.
But I also think this is something new. This isn’t simply Republicans vs. Democrats and we disagree over core issues. This is something bigger. While I had disagreements with Bush and would have had disagreements with John McCain and Mitt Romney had they won, I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a need to be vocal.
I hope I can do it with truth and grace and compassion, something I’m afraid we will no longer see modeled from the Oval Office.
More than anything, I want to capture this moment in time. Immediately after the election there was a climate of fear and despair. Hatred was literally on the rise. I think that’s tempered somewhat, but we continue to see stories of people emboldened to hate. We’ve only seen Trump’s antics increase.
This will be a test like we haven’t seen before, at least not in my lifetime.