What is the single, defining word that personifies the Trump era?
Could it be “wall?” Donald Trump promised a wall across the southern border to keep out Mexicans and other Latinos. He promised Mexico would pay for it. Of course, Mexico didn’t. And Trump never managed to build more than a few hundred miles of wall.
Instead, we end his presidency with American tax dollars paying for his incomplete wall. More tragically, we are paying for the wall of steel barricades surrounding government buildings and monuments in Washington to keep Trump’s radicalized right wing supporters from vandalizing our national heritage on, before or after Joe Biden’s inauguration.
How about “impeachment?” Only three of 45 presidents—Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Trump—have been impeached. Trump has achieved that notoriety not once, but twice.
Like his predecessors in ignominy, Trump evaded conviction by the Senate for his first impeachment. He’s almost certain to escape conviction again. Conviction would require at least 17 Republican senators to vote “aye,” assuming all 50 Democratic senators support the charge. Reaching that level of bipartisan agreement is as realistic as Evangelical Southern Baptists and the Catholic Church suddenly announcing their merger and support for abortion on demand.
Trump may be found not guilty of inciting an insurrection that stormed the Capitol last Wednesday to void Congress’ constitutional act of confirming the votes of the Electoral College in favor of Biden, but he most assuredly is not innocent of the charge and for trying, desperately and continually trying, to overturn the will of the people in what his own administration labeled the most secure election in the nation’s history.
As long as a sizable majority of Republican voters believe Democrats stole the election from Trump; as long as some 150 Republican congresspeople live in districts carved out to assure their election by rabid right wing voters, thus negating any need for them to speak truth to their constituencies; as long as Republicans fear even an out-of-office Trump and express more fealty to him than they do to the Constitution, Trump will be around to torment the democratic process and values honed over 244 years.
Maybe “fake news” is the defining word. (I know that’s two words, but Trump says it so often it sounds like one word.) Because of Trump and his enablers, we live in a world where far too many accept “alternative facts” as gospel.
With Balkanized media, the public no longer has a common source of reality. Progressives have their media sites, conservatives theirs, anarchists, white supremacists, indeed, any faction, have theirs.
Just as our television viewing options have geometrically multiplied from the days of the Big 3 networks—CBS, NBC, ABC—news options have expanded beyond the imaginable. All one needs is an Internet connection to begin skewing truth into fake news.
An increasing number of Americans rely on social media for their news (https://www.journalism.org/2020/07/30/americans-who-mainly-get-their-news-on-social-media-are-less-engaged-less-knowledgeable/).
Trump’s false claims of election fraud led to his current impeachment. His disregard for the dangers of COVID-19 and the steps necessary to contain its spread has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and counting.
Fake news is a Trump legacy that will not go away.
Pussy Galore: To me, the word that bookends the Trump era is “pussy.”
Pre-2016 election, Trump’s signature word was from comments with “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush in 2005. Revealed weeks prior to the election, Trump was heard describing how he relates to women: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. ... Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
In the waning days of his presidency, Trump is said to have cautioned Vice President Mike Pence that he would “go down in history as a pussy” if he didn’t throw out the Electoral College votes Biden won in Georgia and install the votes of a rogue Trump slate.
Don’t get me wrong. Many presidents cursed. Many were womanizers. Many bullied. Yet, Trump’s vulgarity and the trauma he has put our nation and the world through is encapsulated in that one word spoken decades apart.