Not long after America chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton way back in November of 2016, Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence stopped by the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds in West Allis to offer thanks to the state for helping to put Trump–a notorious city slicker with a gift for divorce and lying–into the White House. Trump and Pence were presented with Packer jerseys amidst fawning adulation from two wholesome and God-fearing sons of Wisconsin: then-Governor Scott Walker and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan. At the time I wrote an opinion piece published in the Capital Times which concluded as follows:
So welcome to Wisconsin, a state governed by Republican Trumpery. For the moment, Trumpitarians are merry. But as Thomas Jefferson understood, only a well-educated citizenry is capable of preserving “liberty and justice for all.” Let us hope that we and democracy survive the education we are about to receive.
Now, after four deplorable years of the Trump administration, it appears our democracy will go on. But many Americans did not, sadly, survive America’s fascination with radical trumpery. As I write, more than 5,000 Wisconsinites have lost their lives to a deadly pandemic largely due to denial and delay by Trump and Republicans in general. And though vaccines have been developed and dispersed, the actual injecting of vaccine into Americans has not lived up to the goals of Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed.” Trump, of course, has blamed the states for the slow vaccine rollout. Furthermore, while more than 1,000 Americans were killed by police officers in 2020, according to the Washington Post, Black Americans were killed at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Clearly, the bigoted undertone of Trump’s words and policies worsened American culture and democracy. Hate crimes, as defined by the FBI, have spiked during the Trump administration to above 7,000 annually from 2017 through 2019.
I don’t have space to detail all the hate, death and suffering brought about, directly or indirectly, by the Trump administration, but two items deserve special attention. While federal executions have been rare and the last federal inmate was killed by lethal injection in 2003, under Trump, 11 federal prisoners were put to death this year and two more are scheduled to die before the Biden/Harris inauguration. The federal government has not killed so many prisoners so quickly since 1896. It’s time we put an end to federal capital punishment. Most horrendously, Trump ended his time in office by inciting a riot on the U.S. Capitol Building, forcing members of the House and Senate to run and hide; three people died from medical emergencies while a rioting woman and a Capitol police officer were killed. I needn’t spell out the lessons of that event.
Trump did avoid starting any new wars, thanks mostly to Iran’s restraint, but his vocal respect for other tyrants around the world did not aid the cause of global democracy and human rights. The Biden administration should make a new effort, long overdue, not to support oppressive governments with money and arms nor seek “justice” via drone and assassination.
The other major casualties of the Trump/Radical Right reign are journalism and intellectual culture in general. Public ignorance, misinformation and downright deception have seldom, if ever, been more rampant than they were under Trumpublican rule. Trump called responsible journalists “enemies of the American people” and these journalists were often verbally threatened at Trump rallies. “Fake news” is now the term for anything rational and accurate; delusional conspiracies abound. What political scholar Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style” is today all the rage in “conservative” circles. Social media platforms belatedly learned to do the right thing and pulled the plug on Trump’s lies and bellicose incitements.
And yet, despite the Trumpitarian assault on decency and democracy, the nation has begun to learn its lesson. Ten Congressional Republicans experienced last-minute epiphanies this week and voted in the House to impeach Trump. The Republican Party, remember, was repudiated in the last election, at least at the federal level. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will return honesty and democracy back to the highest offices in the land.
But until the Republican Party in Wisconsin and elsewhere learns contrition and completely renounces its mad MAGA dream, the Democratic Party alone must strengthen what remains of liberal democracy in America. The Democrats in power should avoid, however, the fate of the Republican Party: resist mindless party obedience and the silencing and punishing of peaceable dissent while welcoming any good-faith GOP support.
As he made a quick trip down to Texas to publicly admire a bit of his remodeled border wall, President Trump said his comments leading to the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol were “totally appropriate.” (If Trump were trying to incite an insurrection against Congress, his speech would indeed be appropriate.) The true danger to the country that is “causing tremendous anger,” according to Trump, is his well-earned second impeachment. Well, good riddance, Donald. You really haven’t learned a thing.
(Published in The Capital Times)