The Unlamented Man
First and always, a liar.
Then a con man, a thief, and a grifter. A man who never saw a venture he couldn’t make fail, which is why he was always starting new ones: It was easier to jump to a new ship than stay with the sinking one. A cad, a harasser, allegedly a rapist. He treated women like they were disposable vessels for anxious manhood and was loved by the “family values” contingent for it, because they see women the same way he does. A racist, a bigot, a white supremacist. He saw neo-nazis march in Charlottesville and some part of his brain knew then that he had found his shock troops for an insurrection. A bully, a boaster, a braggart. He looked up to the worst leaders in the world because he wanted what they had: To be unquestioned, feared, and obeyed.
A bad man, a bad human, a bad person. And a bad president.
Not just bad, of course: In fact, the worst. A recitation of his moral failures and actual probable crimes would have us here all day, so let’s pick just one: 400,000 dead, so far, from COVID during his presidency. He is not responsible for the virus. He is responsible for denying its seriousness; for choosing to downplay it because he thought it would make him look bad; for making something as simple and useful as wearing a mask a political issue; for bungling a national response to it and then the distribution of medical supplies and, later, vaccines; for spreading misinformation and lies about it; for, fundamentally, not caring about his fellow Americans, and viewing the pandemic through the lens of him, not us. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who are now dead would be alive under a better president. Their deaths are on his hands, and he simply doesn’t care. He never will.
If there is a silver lining to any of this, it is that he was never popular, never the choice of the majority of Americans. He lost the popular vote in 2016; his electoral win came from razor-thin margins in a few states. This was enough to legitimately make him president, thanks to an electoral system rooted in having to accommodate slaveholders, which still disadvantages the descendants of the slaves. But he was never the people’s choice. He knew it and it rankled him. He was reminded of this fact every day of his administration, because never once did the average of his popularity polls crack fifty percent: indeed, according to FiveThirtyEight, which tracked it for his entire presidency, it never even cracked forty-six percent approval. There has been no president in the history of modern polling who was as unpopular in their first term for as long as he was.
This was how he, in turn, lost the House, the presidency and the Senate for the Republicans, even in a system that had been engineered over the years to value that party’s voters more. It takes effort for an incumbent to lose the White House, not to mention the legislature. He is the first in 80 years to lose it all.
But this silver lining is indeed just a lining to a very dark cloud. Americans are dead, the worst of us are emboldened, and our country’s standing in the world is at a historic low. One of the major political parties of our country simply abandoned what principles it had remaining to serve his will to power, choosing to abet his lie that a legal election had been tainted rather than to acknowledge he had, bluntly and widely, lost. We are nowhere good right now, save for the simple fact that very soon, someone else will be president. We did not so much lose our way as we were driven to a terrible place and abandoned there. We have to wait for someone else to come bring us home.
He will be gone after today; indeed as I write this he is already gone, winging toward Florida to an uncertain future. It is alleged he plans a new political party; I imagine the impending lawsuits and criminal investigations will keep him busy enough. Most importantly, he will no longer be president. He will no longer have the levers of power to injure the nation as he has done for four very long years. He is gone, and his administration is gone, and all that is left of him is an enduring stain on the presidency and the judgment of history. The judgment of history, I assure you, will not be kind. Its unkindness has already begun.
Here is my hope for the man: That no one ever has to think about him again. That his capacity for injury is limited only to those who choose to put themselves in his path. There will always be some; some people can’t, or choose not to, learn. I leave them to their own fate.
But for everyone else, a blessed silence — not an expungement of memory but the knowledgement that this man, this sad, defeated man, this piteous though not pitied man, this liar, this bigot, this churl, this failure, never has to be thought on in the future. After all he has put this country through because of his own ego, it would be a perfect goodness to never again have to say his name.
We’re not there yet. But soon. Let it be very soon indeed.