John McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt recently described Donald Trump as an idiot, an imbecile, and an incompetent, inept person, the worst president the U.S. has ever had. Strong criticism from a lifelong conservative. Schmidt’s concerns were dramatically underscored by the Whte House Supreme Court nomination event, where, without masks or social distancing, the president and many others apparently contracted and spread COVID-19.
Missing from Scmidt’s critique is the statement that Donald Trump is actually mentally ill, something many mental health professionals have been warning about. That point was forcefully made in Mary McNamara‘s October 5 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times comparing Trump’s conduct and photo-op escape from Walter Reed to the madness of England’s King George III, from whom we declared our independence.
Given Trump’s frightening, erratic behavior, we must try to understand those millions of people who put him in office and continue to approve of his performance.
These supporters seem to be the people who, in spite of proven disastrous consequences, refuse to wear masks or social distance because of some self-satisfying notion that their freedom is unacceptably compromised by doing what they are told is in the national interest. But those with military service, service that Trump relentlessly avoided, know that when the national interest is at stake, Americans are regularly told what to do, even to risk their lives.
These supporters argue the importance of restarting our economy, a goal, if pursued carefully, we all share. Yet they support a man whose actions actually impede an economic recovery. They can’t see, or won’t acknowledge, that by intentionally downplaying the virus, by lying and suppressing much needed accurate information, by limiting testing that might show increasing infection rates, by contradicting medical professionals and their science and obstructing their communication with the public, by displaying wishful thinking about miracle cures, by providing no coherent strategy and leadership and showing a serious lack of understanding of presidential powers and duties, Trump has promoted false hope and confusion, allowing the disease to take hold and spread unnecessarily, further disrupting lives and decimating our population.
And now Trump supporters don’t seem able to accept that he has even failed to protect himself and those around him, compromising the presidency and undermlning the real confidence needed for economic recovery.
These supporters can’t see that anyone of intelligence, and most certainly any stable genius with business experience, would understand after being warned by experts, that the virus was serious, and that there was an immediate need to get a grip on properly treating the ill, suppressing the virus, and putting in place uniform procedures and rules to safely allow businesses to be open and to keep the economy going. Instead his supporters echo Trump blaming China, the World Health Organization, and the Obama administration, denying responsibility and patting himself on the back, while ignoring that he set the worst possible personal example of how to avoid the spread of the disease.
These supporters, when state governments independently tried to act carefully, were encouraged by Trump to demonstrate against those governments and to sue to force them to allow businesses to reopen, all in the face of statistics showing that reopening businesses and schools before virus suppression and without uniform procedures was worsening the pandemic.
So now we — including Trump supporters — are facing substantial increases in infections, which will likely result in further restrictions imposed, disruptions to the economy, more public debt and, tragically, more deaths.
Trump supporters seem unwilling to turn off Fox News long enough or otherwise inform themselves to see the results of Trump’s behavior. Over 213,000 Americans have died. We have the largest number of infections and deaths from the virus in the world, with our citizens now banned from travelling to Europe and other countries. Rather than leading the world in this crisis, we are looked down upon as incompetent and isolated.
How can these millions of Americans fail to see that Trump’s behaviors are those of a sick individual or to listen to the many former Trump cabinet members and appointees and Trump’s own family who tell us that he is less concerned about people dying than his own image and ratings, and getting himself re-elected, thereby avoiding the dreaded label of being a loser?
Those who voted for Trump perhaps thought they had legitimate reasons to do so. But now over 40 percent of Americans still approve of Trump and will likely support this sick man again. These are the same people who say they support family values, individual rights, a strong economy, and a strong position by the U.S. in the world. Yet they are giving up much of what they believe in for reasons that are not clear, and about which we would welcome their explanation.
We doubt they would want to see their children grow up to grope and abuse the opposite sex, to commit adultery and pay for silence. It is hard to believe they want to be or train their children to be the type of person who cheats to get into college or avoid taxes, takes advantage of others, uses foul language, name calls, threatens, bnngs frivolous lawsuits, takes multiple bankruptcies, promotes division and violence, incessantly lies and promotes fake news and conspiracy theories, denies responsibility, blames others, discriminates racially, praises dictatorships and demeans our constititional government of laws? Can Trump supporters deny all of this? If he has committed even a fraction of these acts, can they not see that and honestly face the hypocracy of their continued support?
Some say there are complicated psychological reasons why millions of supporters cannot acknowledge even to the slightest degree that we have a mentally ill individual in the White House and that they might have been mistaken in putting him there. Some say the sad truth is that these millions of Americans are or really want to be just like Donald J Trump. I pray that is not the case.
Nor can I accept that they, just like Trump, are, to use Schmidt’s words, just too idiotic and imbecilic to know what is going on. Rather we must hope that these Trump supporters will start to follow the lead of Schmidt and other courageous Republicans and not be afraid to reject what Donald Trump is doing to our country and our values. Then let’s bring our conservative and progressive ideas to the table and focus on solving our problems together. We need all Americans to accomplish this. We have the power. We won our independence from mad King George’s England.