I posted it because hours before, while out for an afternoon jog, a jacked up pickup truck roared past me, two massive flags affixed to its truck bed, flapping winningly in the wind created by the truck’s forward motion. One flag was an American flag; the other was a Trump flag. The truck was likely returning from the local Trump parade that had just taken place. My airway tightened, and I had to stop. Those flags side-by-side — as if that psychopath is in any way synonymous with patriotism. We were two days out from the election, and the dread was overwhelming.
I knew there are plenty of Americans who see Trump for what he is. But we knew that in 2016 too, and he still won despite losing the popular vote by 2.8 million. I dreaded what would happen if the will of the American people was once more thwarted by an outmoded system.
But I also dreaded what would happen if Trump lost. He’d been clear he wouldn’t accept a loss. Even in 2016, when asked if he would accept defeat if he lost the election, he repeatedly said he would not. He maintained this rhetoric for the 2020 election, and, true to form, as Biden’s victory became clear, so did Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the results.
But Trump himself is not the cause of my dread. Trump is just one self-serving man who lies indiscriminately and has no conscience. The cause of my dread is the people who follow him.
Are Americans really this gullible? Really? I know we’ve slipped relative to the rest of the developed world in terms of education, but on a personal level, at a listen-carefully-to-the-words-coming-out-of-that-person’s-mouth level, are Americans really this fucking stupid?
I can watch Trump talk for 60 seconds and immediately recognize him for what he is. It is painfully obvious that he is in this for no other reason but to give himself a stiffy via the froth-mouthed adulation of a screaming crowd of people wearing merchandise with his name all over it. Why is it not easy for millions of others to see this?
You don’t even have to know anything about the subject Trump is speaking on. Just watch him. Watch the interplay between him and the audience. Watch how he pauses between words as he examines the crowd’s reaction. Watch the gears turn in his head as he analyzes which direction to go next. He calculates which turn of phrase will make the crowd love him more, hate “them” more, cement their devotion, scream louder — and yet also allow him to later evade responsibility for his words. He always manages to stop just short of explicitly calling for violence.
It’s terrifying to me that so many people can’t see this. It’s like he’s hypnotized them. Trump gets off on being worshipped; even more, he gets off on making people love him at the expense of their own relationships. He loves that his supporters are so devout that they are willing to cut family members out of their lives as a demonstration of their loyalty. He loves that they will even turn on members of their own party if Trump says they should. This is like a form of masturbation for him; his devoted followers are his lube.
My dread stems from watching these people surrender their critical thinking. And I’m not talking about “do your own research” critical thinking. I’m talking about in-the-moment, evidence-in-front-of-you critical thinking; analyzing a piece of information for exactly what it is. Finding cracks in the “logic” that has been placed before you.
For example, when Trump talks about election fraud, he never provides evidence. He simply says it happened, and for his followers that’s enough. He insists there is proof — he talks about the proof, says there is a lot of it, but he never actually provides it. He has occasionally mentioned hearsay instances of what he wants his followers to perceive as proof of widespread voter fraud, but, again, never actual proof. A single instance of someone accidentally adding a zero and then quickly correcting it is not evidence of mass fraud. Random Trump supporters showing up and demanding they be allowed to observe and being turned away because they’ve not applied through the necessary channels to be an official observer is not evidence of mass fraud.
The kind of mass voter fraud that Trump alleges, the kind that would be needed to overcome the massive electoral and popular loss he sustained, would have real, hard, irrefutable evidence. An operation of that magnitude would have required coordination on a scale that would have been impossible to keep quiet. There would have been recorded phone calls, text message chains, emails, recorded meetings, or even just insiders who knew about a coordinated effort and would be willing to testify that such an operation occurred. We have none of that. We have “oh, um, a truck arrived at 4:00 a.m. with, um, a lot of mail-in ballots and most were for Biden…” Trump supporters eat up his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud like dessert. They love him so much that they will believe him even without proof. His word is all they need, all they crave.
Trump’s lies about COVID led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths and turned the U.S. into an international embarrassment. Every time Trump spoke to the public about COVID, lies spilled out of him and his supporters lapped them up. He’s turned millions and millions of people against science. Trumpists ask questions about COVID not in the spirit of inquiry, but with a “gotcha!” attitude — questions which, had they posed them to an epidemiologist, would have received satisfactory, scientifically sound answers. But they don’t want answers. They want Trump.
I often wonder how different the weeks and months following George Floyd’s murder by police could have been if we’d had a president in place who would have categorically denounced Floyd’s murderers, acknowledged systemic racism in policing, and called for a national investigation and overhaul of our nation’s law enforcement. Imagine if our Black community had been met with empathy and compassion after any one of these killings of unarmed Black men. Imagine if they’d been able to have any sense whatsoever that they would see justice done. There wouldn’t have been any goddamn riots. Trump fucking loved that there were riots. It gave him a place to point his tiny fat fingers and to feel like a cowboy when he said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Best of all, it created a diversion from the abysmal job he’d done at containing COVID.
What happened at the Capitol last week felt like a confirmation and culmination of all the dread I’ve been feeling for so long. For me, the scariest thing about that day is how utterly unprepared the Capitol was in terms of security.
Look at Senator Cruz whipping Trump supporters up into a lather:
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 8, 2021
It was obvious to anyone capable of critical thinking that Trump supporters were worked up and ready for a fight. Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund was initially thought to have failed in his duties at protecting the Capitol as Congress confirmed the election results — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi even called for his resignation. But Sund told the Washington Post in a recent interview that he had repeatedly requested additional security, both prior to and during the storming of the Capitol, and was denied.
Why was Sund denied assistance? Because the people who had the power to grant his request assumed everything would be fine since the people marching on the Capitol were “their people.” Trump supporters are unable to recognize fault in people whom they view as like themselves. Devoted Trump supporters are bad enough; Republicans who don’t particularly like Trump but ride his coattails anyway and blind themselves to what a danger he and his supporters have become might be even worse.
What I’m seeing in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol does nothing to ease my dread. What we’re seeing now is a terrifying shift of loyalty away from country and to Trump himself, specifically. These people are no longer Republicans. They’re Trumpists. They are loyal to Trump and only Trump. He needs only to say the word, and they are happy to eat their own kind. And I guarantee you, Trump fucking loves it.