The Long-Awaited Recap

« January 2021 »

Memo to, I guess, the last four years and everything that led up to and caused it: YOU WERE DUMB.

So, it’s finally time to ponder the enduring question of our age. How bad a president was Donald Trump?

It’s a trickier question than you might think, because despite what the 1776 Project would have you believe, more American presidents than you’d think were involved in, complicit in, or responsible for various historical genocides, and Trump’s closest thing to a genocide was frankly aimed at such a large population that it doesn’t deserve the name. On the other hand, Trump was responsible for the 1776 Project.

Besides being relatively light on the genocide scale, he also didn’t start any wars, although I’ll go to my grave convinced that this was because he wanted to, but someone told him what his wartime work schedule would look like and he said fuck that, I’m going on Twitter and enacting the Trump Doctrine.

The Trump Doctrine, on both domestic and foreign policy, is this: “Saying you’re going to do a thing, saying you did a thing, and actually doing the thing are all the same.” He didn’t need to go to war with North Korea or Iran, he just needed to say he beat them. He didn’t need to deliver a smooth vaccine rollout, he just needed to say he would, pretend he never promised a vaccine months earlier than it appeared, and boom, legacy assured. His supporters would believe he did it, reality-based folks would know he didn’t, and the media would teach the controversy.

Clearly, though, in the arenas beyond “genocide” and “starting disastrous wars”, Donald Trump was the worst president in the history of America. He may have been the worst human being to ever hold the office, but it’s tough to tell, because of the one thing Trump was absolutely the worst at: pretending he was a decent normal human being.

Prior to Trump, politicians believed they had to hide their character flaws. Their sociopathy, their narcissism, their venality, their perversions. They put up fronts, with varying degrees of success, to hide their monstrous natures so that Ellen DeGeneres would feel comfortable being seen at a football game with them and the general public wouldn’t chase them down with torches and pitchforks. So who knows how bad they really were, deep down?

Trump couldn’t do that. He could barely even be made to try. Every time they trotted him out with bribes or threats to act like a normal decent human being, it was obvious he didn’t want to, it was obvious he didn’t even remotely mean it, and it’d inevitably come out a few days later that he was mad about having to do it at all.

And he got away with it. He got away with it because the Republican Party has spent 40 years cultivating a base of voters so devoid of empathy, decency, and intellectual rigor that they cheered Trump’s every depraved move.. A base so toxic that two Republican members of Congress right now subscribe to a no-longer-so-fringe conspiracy theory that Democrats are part of a global pedophile cabal that drinks the blood of babies.

The Trump presidency was a brazen slap in the face to everything we thought mattered in politics. It revealed that our democracy essentially runs on the honor system, that the checks and balances that promise accountability for bad actors are woefully ineffective, painfully slow, and completely subjective. And one of the most dangerous things about the Trump presidency is that we’re very likely going to treat his massive exposure of all the loopholes in the system as an aberration, and pretend that everyone else is going to abide by the norms that will totally still keep everyone not Trump in check.

Trump was also, easily, the most bizarre president of my lifetime, and possibly all of history. So much weird shit, and not in a good way. Like his inexplicable and near-constant use of “YMCA” in the past year, seemingly oblivious to every cultural aspect of the song. Why does it appeal to him? Was it playing at a disco the first time he ordered someone to kill a hooker on his behalf? WE’LL NEVER KNOW. And the well-done steak with ketchup. And the hamberders. And the fact that his attempted coup was led by a rag-tag army of derps cosplaying as the cast of Stupid-Man: Into The Stupid-Verse. And dozens of other weird choices that don’t definitively stem from one of his dozens of obvious personality flaws.

I tweeted a lot about the Trump years thanks to Trump making longer pieces largely irrelevant, and the most cogent thing I think I said during that whole time was after the Jan 6 Insurrection - the hallmark of the Trump era, the man and his movement, is that you can’t underestimate it, and you can’t underestimate it enough. You could never tell if he was bluffing because, well, he was never really bluffing. Anything was possible, because he was brazen and evil, but a lot of things ended up being unlikely, because he was lazy and incompetent and largely uninterested in whether or not the shit that came out of his mouth ended up being true or not.

I don’t know if Donald Trump counts as the worst president in American history, but he was definitely the most fucking awful one. And sure, he didn’t leave in any of the dozens of more entertaining and more just ways we all imagined over the past four years, but at least he fucking left.