Ever since the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency almost four years ago, I have lived in a kind of permanent state of dread — a state that has proved more than justified since that day.
I have lived in dread because I sensed that we had allowed a man to ascend to the most powerful elected office in the world who was not only utterly unsuited to the task, but who also had no genuine love for the nation he was about to govern, no genuine compassion for its citizens and no real loyalty to the world order and to our need to maintain America’s position of respect and moral leadership within it. I knew from the outset that we were in trouble, and the years since have only shown me that, if anything, I underestimated the danger to our republic and to the world.
But now, faced with what I hope and believe will be the ultimate defeat of Trump and the Trump presidency at the polls in November, a different kind of fear has taken hold of me — a fear, albeit more limited in duration, which I believe to be even more ominous for this nation, its citizens and the entire world. For, in the nearly three months between what I hope will be his defeat at the polls and the end of his actual presidency, Donald Trump — freed from the wish to be reelected, freed from the need to please anyone but his omnipresent self — will continue to hold the most powerful position in our nation and the world. And I fear — no, indeed I tremble — for the consequences.
I think that, in recent months, it has become clearer and clearer to more and more Americans that, in Trump, we have elected a man to the presidency who is unlike any who came before — or, I suspect, will come after — him. We have elected a man — unlike either of the George Bushes, unlike Barack Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, unlike Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan, unlike, even, Richard Nixon — who is possessed of no real love for his nation, of no real caring for other human beings, of no real sense of the consequences of his words and actions, of no real fidelity to the truth and no real sense of stewardship of our future. We have elected, in other words, a man whose vision goes no further than the reflection of his own orange-and-red face in the mirror. A person whose every action incarnates the textbook definition of megalomania: an obsessive (and single-minded) desire for power.
The fact that — unhampered by any sense of accountability to the public, unfettered by loyalty to party or to nation or to our collective future — such a man will continue, with broad executive powers (if we and the Congress consent to it), to rule us for almost three long months, strikes terror into my heart and fear into my vision of my and my family’s future. In the hands of such a leader, three months can seem like a lifetime.
“Après moi, le déluge,” (After me, the deluge) Louis XV famously said on the cusp of the French Revolution, although history has it that he might have been referring to the arrival of Halley’s Comet instead. And Trump, who seems to be repeating the phrase with his every word and action, has no small range of choices — economic, medical, racial or cultural — from which his particular déluge might emanate. So, if I were Joe Biden, or a member of the lame-duck Congress that will soon pass with Trump into history, I would certainly be prepared for the worst. For the wrath of a woman scorned, I assure you, will be of little moment, compared with the wrath of a Trump defeated.
This relentlessly cruel man, will not, I am certain, go either gently or noiselessly, into the good night of defeat and humiliation (remember his humiliation at the hands of Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner?). For there is no reason to believe that a man who has not exhibited the slightest trace of decency or dignity in holding power should exhibit those same traits in the course of relinquishing it. He will, instead, try to take as many of us, and as much of our future, down with him as he can. And the result, let me tell you, will not be poetry, but pure and deeply unlyrical prose for all of us to reflect upon.
The end of the Trump Era, I fear, might require all the checks and balances our fragile Constitution can yet muster to assure that this deranged man, when he finally exits our political stage for good, does so not with a bang, but with a whimper. After him, we should make sure, there will not be a déluge, but, finally, some well-deserved peace.