Monday is President’s Day. It will be the second consecutive such holiday without an American president. Sure, Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office, when he’s not golfing. He lives in the White House, at least in theory with his family. But he is not the president of the United States.
When Trump addressed the nation in the wake of the Parkland massacre, my team and I looked at the TV but the words coming from his mouth had no effect. They neither resonated nor moved a single person in the room. It truly didn’t matter what he said, particularly after he tweeted out blame for the carnage at the neighbors and classmates of the killer. Trump is as hollow a vessel as there has ever been in the White House. His rule lacks even a shred of moral authority.
Meanwhile, an indictment of 13 Russian nationals by the Robert Mueller grand jury on Friday reinforced what we already know, Vladimir Putin’s cronies launched a widespread, aggressive, and ultimately successful influence operation aimed at the U.S. presidential election of 2016 with the goal of dragging down Hillary Clinton and electing Trump. The campaign included encouraging Bernie Sanders voters and minorities to stay home or vote for General Michael Flynn’s fellow American dinner guest of RT and Putin at that now-infamous paid dinner, Jill Stein, but its intent was clear: Support Trump by every available means.
Trump is Russia’s creature, not ours. He serves their interests, genuflects before their president, and has remained steadfast in leaving the door wide open for them to interfere in our election on behalf of himself and his desiccated political party again.
The influence operation aimed at Trump is at least years, and perhaps decades old. Trump’s affinity for Russia dates back at least to the late 1980s, during the time of the Soviet Union, and it intensified after his financial empire collapsed. Rescue came in the form of Russian money likely laundered through Trump’s otherwise failing real estate empire, during the time Vladimir Putin was still with the KGB. Now, Trump shares with Putin and his oligarchic kleptocracy a hatred of non-white immigrants, the cultivation of Christian extremists to the detriment of Muslims and gays, a sneering disregard for NATO and global trade, a fetish for the bloody NRA, a disdain for non-sycophant media and an affinity for dictatorial regimes. He is leading a political party that today is more Putinite than American; more like the party of Marine Le Pen than of Abraham Lincoln.
We have entered an age of unreason; an American dark age. A major political party has fallen into decay, seized full on by extremists and overrun by racism, tribalism, greed, xenophobia, and demographic panic. It is no longer a question of whether their president can ever be our president, and speak to the nation with moral authority. He can’t. His legitimacy is too much in doubt and his character too absent. The only question is whether the majority can hang onto its collective outrage long enough to drive the neo-Nazis, anti-modernists, haters, and fear-mongers who have organized under the Trump banner back into the shadows.
This week we learned more about Trump’s lurid sex life than any of us ever wanted to know. And really, who cares, other than the fact that it appears that his lawless antics leading up to the election included conspiring to pay off the women he was sleeping with while Melania was at home caring for their young son. Trump’s aggressive sexuality, which has veered from consensual affairs to alleged unwanted sexual advances and assaults, is just the latest outrage to be tucked under the rug by so-called white evangelicals in America as they grasp for whatever lucre falls off the money changer in chief’s table. Surely, Jesus would shudder in their presence.
So what should we celebrate on President’s Day?
We can celebrate the coming of change. This November, the American majority has the chance to build a wall around Trumpism, by sending to Washington a Democratic congress willing to insist Russian sanctions be implemented, to hold the Trump White House to account rather than canoodling with them as Devin Nunes has done, and to wave the credible threat of impeachment in front of this benighted president; willing to pass common sense immigration reform and gun safety reform and to shun the bloodthirsty gun lobby and relegate them to the margins of history where they belong.
We can celebrate the persistence of hope. Despite the daily horror of Donald Trump, people all over America are continuing to speak out, to organize, to march, and to withhold their silence and consent.
And we can celebrate the waves of candidates standing for office all over this country who are bringing a youthful energy and future focus to the campaign trail. We could see a wave of new leaders in America next year—women and people of color, LGBT Americans, Muslims, and believers in science and pluralism who can yet give America a future worth cheering, while we await a president who’s actually fit to lead us.