Stop Scapegoating Donald Trump
The president didn’t get us into this mess on his own— he had enablers at every turn
It is now more or less official to say Donald Trump will not be serving a second term as president of the United States. Sweeping a shambling, defeated loser off the stage to jeers and boos is cathartic, and Trump deserves every measure of the ridicule and shame being heaped on him. He is a thoroughly odious human being, dishonest to the core — a nasty bully, whose chaotic presidency was driven by a deep-seated compulsion to cause torment. He should live the rest of his life in utter disgrace.
Trump is already being scapegoated for all of America’s problems. But we must remember that one man couldn’t have caused all this damage. He had enablers at every turn. Now that it’s clear the ship is sinking, all the rats are leaping off and seeking safety.
On Thursday night, instead of faithfully broadcasting a Trump lie-athon, America’s liberal cable news media finally cut away from the president when he tried to sell his coup. They refused to give him access to their platforms and debunked the untruths in real-time. It seemed easy for them to do. It should have been just as easy when candidate Trump emerged. Instead, much of America’s establishment media breathlessly reported every inflammatory word and even went so far as to broadcast an empty podium as they waited for Trump to appear after his victory in the North Dakota primary.
Trump was good for ratings, and much of the American media were co-conspirators in his unrelenting assault on the truth, his platform of racist nativism, and the violence he fomented. They’re not acting as a bulwark against an illegal seizure of power now. They were almost certain Trump would lose the election when their spines appeared. They’re not holding Trump accountable; they’re kicking him when he’s down. He may deserve it, but it’s not an act of courage. Confronting him and calling him a liar and a fascist at the full height of his power would have been.
Naked fascism was on the ballot in America, and it wasn’t thoroughly repudiated.
The monster has been defeated at the ballot box. It’s the romantic, Aaron Sorkin-worthy ending American liberals longed for and are embracing. Trundling Trump into a back room, while thankful Americans hurl digital rotten tomatoes doesn’t address the giant elephant in the room: the Republican party. Republican lawmakers were with Trump in lockstep throughout his reign of chaos and terror. It became clear during the Trump years that, as Adam Serwer wrote in The Atlantic, “The cruelty is the point” of Republican policy. Forcibly removing the children of a targeted ethnic group is one of the stages of genocide. It has happened before in America’s past, and the Trump administration repeated that dark history by deliberately orchestrating the separation of migrant children from their families — a grotesque violation of human rights. Will the architects of this policy be held accountable, or will they be given book deals, lucrative consultancies, and university professorships? History says they will almost certainly be forgiven and have no trouble making their way back onto the cocktail party circuit.
Several former members of the Trump administration have already been rehabilitated and will likely keep turning up grinning on cable news in the coming weeks and months to discuss their horrible boss. It’s a reality TV format in the vein of The Apprentice — the show that rehabilitated Trump from a failed, bankruptcy-prone catastrophe into a savvy businessman, who was elevated to the presidency. The people who were fired make the rounds on talk shows to give their opinion on the game, how it’s being played, and who they think will ultimately be victorious. And, make no mistake, it is all a game to these people, including the ones reporting on politics like it’s a football game.
There is also the issue of the 70 million Americans, who got a good look at Trump’s deceit, buffoonery, and towering narcissism and still voted for him. They admire and venerate a clownish bully with the ethics of a pit viper. They share his values, racism being the chief among them. Many of these people are also marks, who have been grifted by an unrelenting campaign of decades-long disinformation and propaganda. That process began long before Trump became a viable political player. The Rupert Murdoch-led conservative media apparatus bears a huge part of the responsibility for how dysfunctional American politics have become. They have made the country barely governable.
Donald Trump didn’t act alone, and he didn’t arise out of a vacuum. He is one of America’s sons.
The myth of American exceptionalism is perhaps Trump’s greatest enabler. Trump’s followers want their country to be an apartheid, white ethnostate, like it used to be until the late 1960s. That position isn’t countered as aggressively as it should be. Liberals are part of the problem too. Joe Biden was against bussing to integrate schools and was the leading architect of America’s mass incarceration policies, which are sometimes referred to as “the New Jim Crow.”
American exceptionalism demands a whitewashing of America’s deeply racist history. That whitewashing helps liberals too. The good guys don’t commit genocide and enslave kidnapped people and their descendants for generations. They don’t help those projects mutate into more palatable human rights abuses. All the horror has to be elided past, so America’s white majority can feel good when they’re waving the flag. They have to be given their Steven Spielberg-directed “America is the best!” moments. Maintaining that feeling of pride is more important than the truth and justice they claim is the American way.
Naked fascism was on the ballot in America, and it wasn’t thoroughly repudiated. The majority of white America embraced it. An even larger majority is pretending this is about one man and not a centuries-old legacy of racism and white supremacy. Donald Trump didn’t act alone, and he didn’t arise out of a vacuum. He is one of America’s sons. Scapegoating him to preserve the fable of American exceptionalism will only ensure that another figure like him (perhaps even worse) will darken America’s doorstep in the future.