Reading Conservative columnist - and ex-Republican - George Will the other day. He said - and I’m paraphrasing here - when Trump leaves office in 2020 or 2024, don’t expect our politics to snap back into the shape it used to be.
Will also opined “Trump will to more lasting damage to America than Nixon and Watergate.”
As usual, George is right on target.
The American political wars - and indeed, much of our entire society - will never be the same. For better or worse - and I would strenuously argue worse - Trump’s devastation of our previous way of life, and what we considered normalcy, has guaranteed things will never again be the same.
None among us can predict how thorough or lasting these changes will be. Nor can anyone, at this point, clearly describe what those social and political conditions will be like. But, changes there will be. Many.
Trump is not singularly to blame for what comes next. But, he recognized the divisions in our society and the mostly unspoken frustrations of a good chunk of the citizenry, boxed ‘em up and gave voice to what about 30-million people were thinking.
He marketed divisions and frustration like they were just some other consumer products to be pitched and, with them, sowed the whirlwind. His salesmanship found takers in the gullible and the unknowing and here we are.
All this racism business. It’s been there, just barely underground, for more than 250 years. Even those of us who denied we were racists knew it. Old story. But, Trump’s gave it voice and introduced to into polite conversation. He bellowed it from the rooftops - read social media - slapping it squarely into our everyday discourse. And, among his fellow Republicans in Congress, he’s made about 180 of them publicly support his hateful rhetoric on the Congressional Record.
Ably abetted by McConnell, McCarthy, Scalise and dozens of others in Congress, more concerned with continued employment than the nation’s good or the oaths they swore to, Trump has marshaled a unique “Fourth Reich” in our politics. Waving the American flag, while wrapping themselves in “patriotic” vitriol, they’ve been his conduits of mongrel politics.
There’s no collegiality in Congress anymore. No one is “reaching across the aisle” to achieve consensus. Voices debating the merits - or lack thereof - of legislation are no longer heard. All that’s been replaced with “us” and “them” and pledges by Republican “leadership” to kill or neuter any Democrat bills - read Mitch McConnell. It’s open warfare and will be for years to come. Post-Trump.
And society? Well, have you lost friends in the last year or so over suddenly entrenched differences? I have. Have you found the coarseness and foul speech all around you creeping more and more into your everyday affairs? I have. Do you find your temper/patience short with issues and people more than, oh, say three or four years ago? I have. Have you experienced disappointment with friends or acquaintances who’ve surprised you with seeming acceptance of today’s poisonous political atmosphere? I have.
Trump’s fault? Not all of it. But, he’s given voice to hate, vengeance, uncivil discourse and ignorance. Unlike that little Dutch boy who put his finger in the hole of a leaking dike, Trump has opened the floodgates for a steady flow of more sickening public insults of our fellow men - and women - than ever before. He’s unleashed open racial hatred. His ignorance of government, world affairs, international relationships, acceptance of foreign dictators over our democratic friends has eroded our nation’s trustworthiness in matters of state.
Trump is dedicated to undermining public confidence in the media in a pattern familiar to foreign dictators. His minions have joined their voices with his in a steady stream of lies, demagoguery, contradictions and deceptions. He’s surrounded himself with sycophants dedicated to stripping protections for worker safety, the environment and even public education. He’s tried - so far unsuccessfully - to strip health care from millions of people. And more. Much more.
When Trump leaves office - by voter decision or otherwise - the effects of his treachery, his deceitfulness, his sordid moral character, his refusal to fill thousands of necessary government jobs, his willful ignorance of protocols and accepted practices, his secrecy and complicity in underhanded dealings, his criminal behavior in business and government relationships - all that and more will leave a political and social stench for decades. If not longer.
He’s managed to put openly and deliberately hateful dialogues into our politics and society. He’s introduced fraudulent diatribes and deceptive virulence into otherwise normal conduct of the Office of President. He’s blurred the lines between truth and deception in everyday affairs of government and publicly accepted behaviors.
Trump is not to be entirely blamed for the open hatred in our national politics. Nor is he alone responsible for massive disruptions in our society. But, he must shoulder most of the burden for our increasingly fractious political condition. And for his negative influences to increase separation and distrust among Americans of differing cultures and racial identity.
When Trump leaves office, we’ll be a long, long time getting rid of what he leaves behind. If ever. Post-Trump.