One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. America has done just that by accepting the destructive and erratic behavior of President Trump over and over again and expecting things would get better.
“Just give him a chance,” we heard, to bring his most talented people to Washington to add their skills to his, a stable genius, and make deals to get the best health care ever, fairer trade with China, a nuclear-free Korea, a solution to the West Bank dilema, a border wall paid by Mexico, new U.S. infrastructure, tax reform, a balanced budget, and a drained swamp, among other promises. America waited. The so-called “smartest” advisors and cabinet appointees came and left or were fired or indicted at a rate never seen before. Many barely had time to learn their job, much less solve problems.
When criticism or failures were reported, it was all attributed to “fake news.” When the president was impeached for trying to bully foreign governments to create a cloud of investigation over rival Joe Biden, some Americans said “don’t remove him from office — he will surely have learned his lesson.” He did not, firing civil servants and inspector generals he considered to be working against him.
When the biggest challenge of COVID-19 faced the country, the president failed miserably, worrying more about how things looked politically, downplaying the severity of the disease, denying science, bragging about his role, failing to meet with and lead the COVID 19 Task Force and even worse failing to lead by example, suggesting simple steps like wearing a mask were unnecessary, hosting events which spread the disease to White House staff and the public, then jeopardizing national security by catching it himself. And today, facing sharp criticism, President Trump says that the reports that over 350,000 Americans have died from the disease is fake news.
In spite of all this, over 74 million Americans voted for President Trump to give him yet further chances to govern effectively. But Joe Biden got 7 million more votes. This was unacceptable to President Trump, who said, without providing supporting evidence, that the election was stolen from him by rigged voting machines and fraudulent ballot counts. He sued over 50 times to try to change the results and strong-armed state legislators to set aside the electoral college vote. Courts and state legislators listened patiently but rebuffed him in these efforts. He was publicly urged to preserve a legacy, accept his loss and not attack our democratic system. Still, there was no change in behavior.
In Georgia we now see he tried 18 times to change the election result. In his final call to Republican Georgia Secretary of State he threatened criminal liability and demanded Republican loyalty in asking the Secretary to ‘find’ the necessary votes or “recalculate” the results so that Trump was the winner and not the loser. A criminal act according to some.
And as inauguration day looms, the president has obstructed the transition process, discussed martial law, pardoned many loyalists convicted of crimes and otherwise rewarded many who supported him. He has fomented anger and invited people to come to D.C. to demonstrate in his support. And ominously he has replaced many in the Department of Defense with loyalists, action which precipitated an unprecedented letter from all living Secretaries of Defense warning not to use the military for political purposes.
None of this behavior should come as a surprise. For years mental health professionals and many others have warned that Donald Trump’s actions are entirely predictable. He is a classic malignant narcissist who cannot and will not accept criticism or failure and most assuredly will do ANYTHING to avoid being labeled a loser.
And yet so many Americans keep doing the same thing, tolerating his destructive acts and tantrums while deluding themselves that things will get better. And while committing this insanity our democracy, our Rome, burns while our president, our Nero, and his enablers diddle.