Remembering the day Trump turned the GOP into a death cult
April 23: It's Shakespeare's birthday. It's the day that Beyoncé released her instant 2016 classic "Lemonade." It's, uh, the day that Anne Stuart was crowned queen of England. And — much to the chagrin of those who care about things like facts, human decency, and not letting hundreds of thousands of people die to serve the pathetic ego of a sociopathic narcissist — it is also the anniversary of the day that Donald Trump, technically elected president of the United States of America, stood up on national television and suggested he had found the cure for coronavirus that those silly doctors hadn't considered: bleach injections.
And before a sea of conservatives start saying "nuh-uh" and "fake news," let's go ahead and roll the tape:
I see disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it'd be interesting to check that.
Standing at a podium in the White House briefing room, Trump also insisted — and this always stuck with me because he was just so sure that he had figured out something that medical science had overlooked — "I'm like a person who has a good you-know-what" while pointing to his head. He also threw out the idea of cracking people open and letting sunlight clean them out.
The moment wasn't just the end of any remaining dignity for the U.S. It was the end of the last remaining hope beating in liberal hearts that there was anything that Trump could say or do that would cause his followers to un-cleave themselves from the bosom heaving under that weirdly overlong tie. No, on the contrary, it was proof that the worst Trump acted, the more his supporters clung to him, determined to stick it to the liberals who kept laughing at them for voting for the wannabe fascist reality TV "billionaire" in the first place.
For the one-year anniversary of what will likely be remembered as the stupidest day in American politics, Politico did a very Politico thing and published an "inside baseball" piece allowing anonymous and self-congratulatory Trump aides to claim that they did try to stop him before he unleashed the ignorance kraken. Naturally, not a one is asked the deeper question of why they would even work for a man who was a known threat to do something so thunderously stupid.
More important, however, than the self-serving narratives of people with more ambition than sense is what this moment really ended up foretelling about the next year. No doubt it was pretty funny, this new level of cretinism reached by this known moron whose unearned privileges allowed him to fail upwards right into the White House. But Trump's toxic combination of stupidity wed to the self-assurance of a terminal narcissist also ended up being the catalyst for months of mounting trauma inflicted on a nation where most voters really had done their level best to elect Hillary Clinton instead.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, Trump's narcissism led him to believe that he not only knew better than all the scientists of the world combined but that they were probably only saying COVID-19 was a problem as some sort of plot against him. By giving him a daily press briefing at which he could rant mindlessly at cameras every day, his staff was able to trick him, for a time, into reluctantly pretending to take the virus seriously. Still, he was able to communicate to his followers — by refusing to wear a mask, by acting like a pouty child, and by encouraging anti-lockdown protests — his true feelings about the virus, and about his irritation at scientists for thinking they know more than him just because they read and study.
The results were deadly. Refusal to take the pandemic seriously became a badge of honor among Republicans, leading to red states falling short on quarantine measures and conservatives rejecting even the most basic precautions. Trump encouraged this by holding maskless, crowded rallies. The death toll quickly mounted, spiraling way past the early worst estimates of 100,000 or 200,000 to where we are today, with over 570,000 dead on this grim anniversary.
Trump's leadership in framing belligerent ignorance as a right-wing virtue is still wreaking havoc. Over 40% of Republicans refuse to get vaccinated, ready to see this rejection of science until the very end. Even just this week, Trump's former HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, was still hawking hydroxychloroquine, one of the many failed "miracle cures" that Trump hyped in his efforts to deny that scientists know what they're talking about.
The bleach presser crystallized another important aspect of Trump's personality that turned out to be not funny at all: His stalwart belief that there's always some easy way out. Trump was a man who spent his whole life being bailed out of trouble by rich and powerful people, but the pandemic was not something that could be made to disappear with a quick phone call to Roy Cohn or a check written to buy someone's silence. Still, Trump did not abandon his hope that there must be a way to make this whole pandemic business go away, and, in his grasping for such a thing, he landed on "disinfectant injections".
Unfortunately, that same attitude of Trump's came into play after he lost the 2020 election. His failed coup that played out over the next two and a half months was driven by his hunt to find some legal trick, some cheat code available only to him, that would allow him to sail in and seize the lost election from Biden. And when that didn't pan out, as we all saw, he instead sent an unruly mob to storm the Capitol and try to steal it for him.
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