Reclaiming Sanity: Lessons from the 2020 Hellscape

By January 8, 2021 No Comments

Pro-Trump insurgents in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 (Photo: Tyler Merbler; creative commons)

By Larry J. Schweiger
Pittsburgh Current Columnist

The nightmare with an unhinged sociopath want-to-be-dictator at the helm of an attempted coup with right-wing insurrectionists will end on Jan. 20 if not before. Life will not get better until we are all vaccinated and Joe Biden is sworn in. The pain of our losses will continue to be raw for a long time. Few want to dwell on the many failures we have lived through in in recent months, but we can never forget those who are suffering and the 357 thousand who have died. We should not ignore the critical lessons of the four-year nightmare culminating in the hellscape of 2020 and these early days of 2021. 

Long before the 2020 election, voters and lawmakers were warned by thirty-seven psychiatrists and mental health experts who assessed Trump’s mental health in a book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” Warning in a Salon interview after Trump’s maskless photo-op, Dr. Bandy Lee explained, “sociopathy is dangerous, in part because out of envy of other human beings for having human characteristics, it actively desires people to suffer and die,” It “would not be an exaggeration to say that Trump delights in putting people in danger.”

Trump is a sociopath who has fueled a deadly pandemic with a self-serving partisan divide. While not responsible for the origin of the COVID-19 virus, Trump’s sociopathic malpractice allowed the virus to spread unchecked. By mocking mask wearers, criticizing mandatory measures, and repeatedly downplaying the health crisis, Trump ignored warnings about mounting death tolls. Trump’s actions caused many of the 350,000 Americans to die, far too many needlessly. Ignoring the families mourning empty chairs at the dinner table, he continues to claim the death toll is fake news. He sabotaged testing all along, even calling for the slowing down of testing. Trump dumped COVID responsibilities on governors to complete the task with little coordination or financial support. He even attacked Governors who were following CDC guidelines and fed a dangerous backlash. 

Trump did not invest in Federal-funded testing or vaccination sites, and now we know that Trump’s Operation Warp Speed ended at the state borders. It is one thing to deliver vaccines and another to make sure they got into the arms of Americans. Instead of creating a coordinated National vaccination response, all along, Trump took a hands-off approach and failed to coordinate with Governors. 

In a December 27th statement issued from his Florida golf resort, Trump claimed, “Under my leadership, Project Warp Speed has been a tremendous success, my Administration and I developed a vaccine many years ahead of wildest expectations, and we are distributing these vaccines, and others soon coming, to millions of people.” Project Warp Speed promised 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020. While claiming to have developed the vaccines, Trump’s actual rollout of the two approved vaccines has been disorganized and alarmingly slow. Hardly a “tremendous success” with only four million Americans receiving their first COVID-19 vaccine by December 31st. Worse, it is now clear that the Trump administration failed to build a local distribution, vaccination infrastructure, or coordinate the last miles of distribution, apparently leaving it to others to figure that out. 

Clarity from the state and Federal governments have been lacking. Senior citizens on Social Security rolls and Americans with co-morbidities have no clue how or when or if they will get vaccinated or where to go. Even family doctors and other medical professionals are out of the information loop. As two more contagious virus variants are rapidly spreading, it is time for state governments to step up and get the job done.

Promising to make “America Great Again,” Trump took the Nation down with his dishonest, self-aggrandizing, and dark tweet-path. At his boisterous rallies, Trump repeatedly attacked mainstream media, elected officials, Black Lives Matter, and even the remaining patriots in the traditional Republican Party with toxic unpresidential rhetoric. Trump attacks anyone who refuses to bow to his undemocratic demands.

Knowing his re-election was in trouble after bungling the health and economic crisis, Trump preemptively promoted a conspiracy claims at his numerous maskless rallies. After the election, Trump and his followers launched more than sixty baseless lawsuits rejecting the Department of Homeland Security’s findings, declaring the election the “most secure in American history” with no evidence of any voting systems malfunctioning. Attorney General William Barr, who willingly sabotaged the Mueller investigation, refused to lie about the 2020 elections. Reflecting sixteen federal prosecutors charged with investigating the election, even Barr clarified there was no evidence of widespread irregularities. 

In a sixty-two-minute rant, Trump demanded, “I need eleven thousand votes, give me a break,” Trump’s illegal demands and conspiracies theories were too much for Republican Brad Raffensperger who warned Trump that people on social media “can say anything.” Trump responded: “It’s not social media. It’s Trump media.” With death threats from Trumpsters, attacks from Trump media, and dishonest tweets from Trump, Raffensperger taped Trump’s rambling to clarify what is going on. The House Democrats are calling for an FBI investigation to determine if Trump broke the law. Cleta Mitchell who was Trump’s attorney participating in the call, is now entangled in an illegal activity, and severed from her law firm.

Undermining the Constitution, Trump asked Republicans to commit sedition in a legislative coup d’état by baselessly objecting to the results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to overthrow Americans’ overwhelming vote. Far too many Republicans put ambition over democratic principles. Senators Rubio and Cruz are already running for President in 2024, played in a Kabuki Theatre manipulating and pretending to support Trump’s baseless claims. They hoodwinked Trumpsters and undermined millions of voters and we should never forget that. 

Pence finally broke with Trump when he presided over the joint session of Congress, knowing under the Twelfth Amendment, his duty was explicit; the vice president “shall . . . open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted.” In the end, Pence carried out his ministerial mandate and certified the electoral results. He overrode Trump and called out the National Guard. It has been an ugly show, that dangerously feeds the unstable in our land and creates the violence undercutting the pillars of democracy. 

On the 6th of January, Trump lit the match when called our democracy “bullshit” and promised to march to the Capitol with angry and unstable protestors. He used dangerous rhetoric to egg on most radical followers including the Proud Boys feeding Congressman Louie Gohmert’s apocalyptic call for what amounts to a violent coup d’état. Living near gun-toting Trumpsters, I know pouring gasoline on a raging fire is never a good idea. Trump enabled all that we saw and he needs to be out and held accountable.

Elections matter and every eligible voter must separate baseless conspiracies, myths, and political spin from objective truth before they vote. Before the 2016 election, any voter paying attention knew Trump was born into a life of privilege having inherited New York City real estate. He had a documented record of bigotry and he was video-documented as a misogynist. In his four-year-reelection-campaign, Trump stoked racism to appeal to the worst instincts of ignorant racists. Long before the 2016 election, Trump evidenced a profound lack of empathy. Trump had a long history of cheating workers, Trump University students, and contractors. Claiming to be a successful businessman with extravagant wealth when the record revealed he had declared bankruptcies; he was a tax dodger and bone spur con artist. Let us never forget the consequences of electing a sociopathic president. 

There are no boundaries when a sociopath inhabits the White House. Trump has now spawned insurrection. Obsessed and vicious, Trump is a right-wing thug who has weaponized latent hatreds against minority neighbors, liberals, and immigrants even his own Vice President. While alienating friends, co-workers, and dividing families, Trumpsters have propagated and embraced wild conspiracies that Trump has amplified with his endless tweets. On the 6th of January, Trump attempted an overthrow. According to the Washington Post, in a video posted after 4 p.m., Trump repeated “the election was stolen” and Trump “spoke in sympathetic and affectionate terms to members of the mob, advising them to “go home,” adding, ‘We love you.’” Trump did not respect the Congressional process to resolve his grievances, he instigated a coup. It is time the Congress must do its duty and remove Trump to secure our Nation.

President Joe Biden inherits the Presidency while many in America are very sick with a fast-spreading deadly virus, and widespread food insecurity and with the right-wing Trumpsters festers coup. We have witnessed a full-blown attempt to overturn free and fair elections by a raging autocratic sore loser. 

We are in a George Orwell world with the loss of objective truth. Misinformed or willfully blind, Trump voters are complicit in the 2016 election failure and need to own their role in our national nightmare. We need to move beyond the pain and suffering by taking the lessons to heart. After this, the House needs to impeach Trump and the Senate needs to convict this time.

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