Six months into the Trump presidency, Leonard Pitts Jr. takes stock.
So here we are, six months later. How time has trudged.
But the calendar does not lie. On Thursday, we will be half a year through the Trump Era. And, contrary to his signature promise, America seems less great by the day. Nor are his other promises faring particularly well.
There is no sign of progress on that border wall, much less any idea how he is going to make Mexico pay for the thing. His promise to preserve Medicaid and provide health care for everyone has dissolved into a GOP bill that would gut Medicaid and rob millions of their access to health care.
Meantime, the guy who once said he would be working so hard he would seldom leave the White House spends more time on golf courses than a groundskeeper.
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But for all that Trump has not achieved, there is, I think, one thing he indisputably has. He has taught us to live in a state of perpetual chaos and continuous crisis. Six months later, the White House commands the same horrified attention as a car wreck or a house fire.
In that sense, last week’s revelation that the Trump campaign, in the person of Donald Trump Jr., did in fact collude with a hostile foreign power to influence the 2016 election was just another Tuesday. Sure, it might have been shocking from the Bush or Obama campaigns. But under Trump, we live in a state of routine calamity.
Besides which, a few days from now, there will be something else. With Trump, there inevitably is. Things can always get worse — and usually do.
And when they do, we can count on the GOP, that inexhaustible fount of righteous outrage, to stand tall and courageously look the other way. For almost 20 years, the party has never seen a minor episode (“Travelgate”), a sheer nothing (Whitewater) or even an international tragedy (Benghazi) it could not turn into Watergate II. Yet, as credible accusations of treason, obstruction, collusion, and corruption swirl about this White House, the GOP has been conspicuous in its acquiescent silence. It seems the elephant has laryngitis.
But the rest of us can’t stop talking.
Indeed, from the studios of CNN to the bar stools of your neighborhood watering hole, amateur psychoanalysis has become America’s favorite pastime in the last six months. Dozens of theories have been floated, all aimed at answering one question:
What is wrong with him?
But I have come to believe that question misses the point. Sixty-three million people voted for this. And make no mistake, they knew what they were getting. It was always obvious that Trump was a not-ready-for-prime-time candidate, but they chose him anyway. And the rest of us need to finally come to grips with the reason why.
It wasn’t economic anxiety. As a study co-sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic reported in May, people who were worried for their jobs voted for Hillary Clinton. But people who dislike Mexicans and Muslims, people who oppose same-sex marriage, people mortally offended at a White House occupied by a black guy with a funny name, they voted for Trump.
That’s the reality, and it’s time we quit dancing around it.
This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking — or caring — what’s wrong with him. Six months in, it’s time we grappled a far more important question.
What in the world is wrong with us?