Trump in the Rearview Mirror

This is at least my third run on writing about my thoughts on Donald Trump. I’ve gotten tripped up on there just being too much to say, with something new every day. It’s easier, with him out of office (no longer my boss!) and no longer a flowing cesspool on Twitter. I certainly hope his time in the driver’s seat of anything more dangerous than a golf cart is over, and a retrospective is appropriate.

I believe that Donald Trump is a disgusting human being who came to power by exhibiting some of the worse tendencies of humanity. Before he was elected President, he was an ostentatious, egotistical, boorish braggart who lied, bullied, and generally made the world a worse place. As President, he took all those things to the next level, and did immense damage to the country I most love. He somehow became the darling and idol of the evangelical right wing of the nation while pouring gas on xenophobic, misogynistic, racist tendencies that used to be at least hidden from plain view.

He lost the 2020 election solidly. He claimed, without offering any convincing evidence, that there was voter fraud causing him to lose. This undermined the national trust in the election process, directly attacking the foundation of a democracy (or a democratic republic).  The best evidence he seemed to have was simply that it was impossible that he could lose. His supporters made up more specific claims, but again without any compelling evidence that could hold up even in courts primarily appointed by him.

Sadly, the majority of voters and states turning against Trump in the election did not apply to the Congress and Senate races, significant evidence against corruption in the election itself. If Democrats hacked the machines, or faked ballots, to cause Trump to lose, why wouldn’t they also take down the down-ballot Republicans? Was the corruption by anti-Trump Republicans? If so, was the same corruption there four years ago pro-Trump, and should Hillary Clinton have had Trump’s term?

From the lead up to his 2016 election through the present, Trump has been very effective in the art of bullshit. His communication is full of lies, but they are lies without any respect for the truth. The Washington Post counted 30,573 false or misleading claims he made in his presidency. Often, his lies were obviously false, or easily disproven. But the point of bullshit isn’t to be believed, but to be heard, and to drown out other voices. By maintaining a constant barrage of bullshit, he was able to keep Twitter, the news, and the internet full of himself. He made truth seem irrelevant to any discussion, instead “winning” by the emotional impact of his repetition, his attacks, innuendo, contempt, and pride. He is an artist of sorts in his manipulation of media and debasing of communication. It’s not an art I enjoy or respect.

I don’t, of course, attribute the total death toll of COVID-19 on Trump. His complete lack of useful leadership and consistent downplaying and disruption of a helpful federal response to the pandemic caused the needless death of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of Americans, but whoever was in office, there would have been a spread and many deaths. The United States could have done much, much better in its response with effective government and leaders who set the nation a good example in working together and caring for each other, rather than polarizing, and championing the idea that not wearing a mask is sign of freedom, rather than self-centeredness. Operation Warp Speed was one of the better things to come out of his administration, and helped enable even the vaccines made outside the program. But managing the wait and the lockdown was a debacle. That was the primary reason he did lose the election, and his reaction to losing the election lost the Georgia Senate races, and thus the Senate.

The Trump administration was actually rather good for NASA, and for space exploration overall. The aggressive push to return to the Moon, the appointment of Jim Bridenstine as NASA Administrator, and Trump mostly staying out of the way except for astronaut photo ops, was good for the Agency. I don’t think Space Force needed to be a branch of the service, but the functions it serves (and has been serving as part of the Air Force and Army) are important. Pence actually seemed to care and pay attention in his position at the head of the National Space Council. Unlike many of the other federal agencies, there wasn’t a parade of different leaders, or no leaders, many with no qualification, and more than a few actively hostile to the purposes of the agency (e.g. Betsy DeVos, champion of taking public education fund for private schools, for Education, David Berhardt the oil lobbyist for Interior).

What most aggrieved me about the Trump administration is the intense loyalty, and in some cases idolatry, that he garnered with the Christian right. His trademark has been to trample simple decency, the idea that to be strong is to be brutal rather than kind, empathic, or, well, nice. The seven deadly sins are pridegreedwrathenvylustgluttony, and sloth. It seems to me a pretty good description of the Trump brand, though I will concede that he keeps busy, even if it’s just golfing. His sloth shows mostly in being unwilling to read or listen to anything of substance, and that’s more pride than sloth. He seems so far from the ideal of Christian leadership I learned growing up, so far from any idea of a Godly man. And yet, I see the burning anger and devotion in those who have become his disciples, somehow in the name of Christ, ready to destroy the country to save it. Though Christianity is not the path I’m on anymore, I always had respect for the integrity of those who consistently held to the teaching of the Bible. That many have embraced the kind of bullshit that builds dictators and fuels genocides makes me sad.