--Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times (April 25, 2020)
It began in June 2015 with a racist screed about Mexican rapists and criminals and a vow to upend an immigration policy that made America great and prosperous. It ended with a return to his anti-immigration comfort zone, a trip to tout his obscenely expensive and pointless border wall for which he had falsely promised Mexico would write us a multi-billion dollar check.
It began at the U.S. Capitol with the darkest inaugural address in American history, referencing a mythical “American carnage” he vowed to end. It ended at the U.S. Capitol with actual horrific American carnage he caused.
It began on January 21, 2017 with the first Big Lie, a relatively harmless one that elicited universal ridicule—that the modest-size crowd at his inauguration the day before was the largest ever. It ended after more than 30,000 additional lies, many of them no laughing matter.
It began with a meeting in the Oval Office in which he shared top secret classified intelligence with senior Russian officials, an unprecedented national security breach that no prior president would have dared do. It ended with Russians (per the FBI) as part of the mob he incited to attack the Capitol trying to execute his attempt at a coup d’état.
It began with a barrage of tweets designed to arouse and incite his supporters to anger and hate. It ended with his way-too-late ban from social media, long after he transformed his supporters into domestic terrorists intent on destroying America.
It began with him exploiting the fears of white Americans that they are going to be left behind by demography. It ended with many of them morphing into a white supremacist cult.
It began with a president inheriting a booming economy. It ended with an economy devastated by his inattention to the pandemic.
It began with a functioning federal government with strong employee morale. It ended with a dysfunctional government and employee morale so low as to defy measurement.
It began with the pardon of a racist sheriff who was criminally convicted after herding Latinos into concentration camps. It ended with pardons for criminals who did not flip on him in return for promised clemency.
It began with a cruel family separation policy that ripped children from their mothers’ arms and confined them in cages. It ended with more than 500 children unable to reunite with their parents.
It began with 784 right-wing hate groups (per the Southern Poverty Law Center) when he announced his hate-inspired—and hate-inspiring—presidential campaign in 2015. It ended with an estimated 1,200 such organizations upon his departure.
It began with a legacy of 228 years of constitutional democracy strong enough to survive Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, a Civil War, Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding, a Great Depression and Richard Nixon. It ended with serious questions whether this democracy can survive Donald Trump and the fascist forces his evil has unleashed.
It began with Trump’s eliminating three offices designed to combat a pandemic. It ended with more than 400,000 Americans dead, the vast majority dying due to the absence of these safeguards, presidential ineptitude and disinterest.
It began in 2017 with presidential praise for “fine people” who just happened to be neo-Nazis. It ended in 2021 with white supremacists carrying out a president-prompted insurrection intent on overthrowing our democratic republic.
It began with mayhem. It ended with chaos, destruction and death.
We survived, but barely.
January 22, 2021