Our would-be “Emperor” has no clothes.
While the nation is being torn apart, those who are (nominally) in charge are playing “duck and cover.” As protestors massed in front of the White House, Trump turned off the lights, reminding the writer of the linked Raw Story of Halloween nights when neighbors who’ve run out of candy turn off their lights and pretend no one’s home.
Not exactly a profile in courage. Or leadership.
The would-be autocrat, the lover of military parades, the bullying issuer of bluster and threats spent an hour last Friday night in the White House underground bunker. Multiple media outlets have shared leaks from GOP insiders who report that Trump is worried for his safety, and that he’s been frightened by the size and venom of the crowds.
Heather Cox Richardson shared a stunning–and telling– paragraph from an AP story:
As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden was out in the streets talking to protesters.
Raw Story described the act of turning off the White House lights as “a metaphor for President Donald Trump’s leadership,” and shared the sentiments of multiple Twitter users, who weighed in using the hashtag “Bunker Trump”–“stoke the hate, then run…how pathetic,” “Lights out at #WhiteHouse is a powerful symbol. Total lack of leadership from @realDonaldTrump.” And another tweet that was particularly on point:
Like all other strong men, Donald Trump is a coward and soft and terrified. Hiding in the White House and turning off the lights is all on brand. These are insecure, sad little men who build themselves up with the iconography of fascism to hide their fear.
It has become abundantly clear that Trump’s tweeted insults are examples of projection.( A recent, telling example: In a telephone conversation yesterday with a number of governors, Trump reportedly accused them of being weak.)
Not even Trump’s harshest critics can blame him for a virus believed to have come from a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, nor for an attendant economic collapse, nor for four centuries of slavery, segregation, police brutality and racial injustice.
But they can, and do, point to how he made a bad situation so much worse. The story of Trump’s presidency was arguably always leading to this moment, with its toxic mix of weak moral leadership, racial divisiveness, crass and vulgar rhetoric and an erosion of norms, institutions and trust in traditional information sources. Taken together, these ingredients created a tinderbox poised to explode when crises came.
The Guardian–voicing the obvious–notes that Trump, who was “uniquely ill-qualified”for the Presidency, is ignoring crises he has no competence or desire to address, and meeting unrest in dozens of cities with authoritarian language: “thugs”, “vicious dogs” and “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The nation waits in vain for a speech that might heal wounds, find a common sense of purpose and acknowledge the generational trauma of African Americans. That would require deep reading, cultural sensitivity and human empathy – none of which are known to be among personal attributes of Trump, who defines himself in opposition to Barack Obama.
A spokesperson for Black Lives Matter was quoted putting into words an opinion held by most thinking Americans since 2016:
He doesn’t have a clue. He’s a TV personality. He has a cult following that’s centred around this white power broker persona rooted in white supremacy and racism. Wherever he goes, he carries that role and that kind of persona, but ultimately right now with what we’re looking for in this country is real leadership. He is incapable of providing that because that’s not who he is.
A civil rights leader also quoted in the Guardian article noted that, while Trump didn’t create hostility and division, he incites it and thrives on it.” And in words that echo many of the comments that have been posted to this blog since 2016, he added:
The problem here is that we can focus this simply on Trump or we can also focus on all of those folks that have enabled Trump: the Republican leadership, the corporation that may make statements in support of this work but, on the other hand, do all sorts of things to prop up, support, donate to Donald Trump. You don’t get Trump and Trumpism without a whole host of institutions and individuals that support and enable him.”
We don’t just need a “blue wave.” We need a blue tsunami.