With nearly everything that Donald Trump does, failure attends, awaiting its inevitable moment. Condos, casinos, airlines, universities, meat, vodka, environmental policy, foreign policy, trade wars, Covid-19–his cascade of calamity has left behind debt, economic destruction, and more than 350,000 dead Americans. At a time when millions of small businesses are anxiously awaiting help from the federal government, the nation’s leader serves up chaos instead.
His attempt to retain his presidency–through persuasion, litigation, and, finally, violence–after the voters fired him is notable only as the final failure of an administration that has strained our democracy, our economy, and, finally, our patience.
Trump’s so-called adult supervisors, including Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, thought they had played their hands well, hoping to lead the president into some sort of a semi-graceful handover. Pence had told Trump directly that he wouldn’t go to bat for him when the Electoral College votes were certified. But Trump turned on Pence and McConnell as he has everyone else who has crossed him. He egged on congressional supporters despite losing more than 60 court cases about non-existent election fraud. And, in the end, he turned on America.
Not that the assault on the Capitol by right-wing terrorists bearing Confederate flags was going to have any more success than the rest of his ceaseless efforts to undo the election. There will be a cleanup of this trash, just like there would be after an out-of-control frat party. “You have to go home now,” the president eventually told the pro-Trump extremists after they had destroyed parts of the historic building and injured officers. “We have to have peace. We have to have law and order.”
Some in the business community bear a share of the responsibility. Yes, business leaders late last year and even this week called on Trump to knock it off, but events were already too far along. For the past four years, business leaders have been happy to ride the Trump train to Crazytown because of all the goodies on board–including tax breaks and deregulation–all the while shaking their heads at his lack of management skills. We’re from the same town, Mike Bloomberg once tweeted at him, and everyone here knows you’re a clown and laughs at you behind your back.
But it’s no laughing matter. We have an economy trying to pull itself out of the dive caused by a pandemic and the Administration’s abjuration of responsibility. We’re still fighting over masks, even as ICUs fill up. This lack of direction has hurt many industries, including restaurants, travel and tourism, and Main Street shops as well as aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing. At the same time, soon-to-be minority leader McConnell limited the amount of help available to small businesses in the latest stimulus plan.
And it’s still not over. Trump is certainly going, but he’s still got time to disrupt business in China, add tariffs on European goods that make them more expensive here, and spit on the environment one last time for no one’s particular benefit, not even energy companies’. This from a man who picked a fight with Canada over milk.
Four years ago, a lot of Americans, some of them feeling disenfranchised, voted for the idea of Trump: world-class dealmaker. Reality-television star. He would save their jobs, lower their taxes, and defeat all our enemies. But the reality of Trump has turned out to be so much different. He’s an incompetent businessman, a tax cheat, a liar, and, finally, a failed tyrant in what used to be the planet’s shining democracy. We are a better nation than that. And despite the ugly scenes in Washington on Wednesday, in two weeks we will have the chance–and the challenge–to demonstrate that once again.