I’m writing this today after Trump’s latest atrocity, in which he tweeted a theory that a 75-year-old man, beaten by police during a peaceful demonstration and in critical condition as of this writing, was part of a “setup” designed to make the police look bad.
Just when you think Trump can’t be any worse, he’s worse. There is no bottom with that guy. He proves he can always go lower.
So here’s my question for the day, along with my own personal answer.
Can you be a good person and support Donald Trump?
I know a lot of good people who voted for Trump in 2016, thinking that the pro-life cause or other conservative priorities made it necessary to accept Trump’s obvious flaws. In 2020, however, many of those same people are not voting for Trump again. At some point along the way, it became clear to them that the cost of Trump support was way too high.
For me, I voted for Gary Johnson in 2016. I was working for him at the time, so it seemed like the thing to do. But even if Johnson or Evan McMullin or any other candidate hadn’t been on the ballot, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either Trump or Hillary. I considered both to be so egregiously bad that the idea of a “lesser of two evils” didn’t seem to be a relevant way to approach it. In a blog post, I framed it as the equivalent of picking a babysitter when your two choices are Jeffrey Dahmer and Jerry Sandusky. You could argue that a serial killer is worse than a serial pedophile, but both are so egregiously beyond the pale of what’s acceptable that it’s ludicrous to even consider either one of them.
So when Trump won, my first reaction was relief. (“Hillary is gone forever! Hooray!”)
And while I had more than a little trepidation about Trump, I held out hope that perhaps competent people could tame Trump’s worst instincts and save him from himself. One of the first headlines on the Drudge Report after Trump’s win was “SHOCK: ROMNEY FOR SECRETARY OF STATE?” And I thought, for a brief moment, that maybe Trump would surround himself with people who knew what they were doing. My spirits lifted, and I had a glimmer of hope that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
That hope was completely dashed on January 27, 2017, when, as his first major action in office, Trump banned refugees from coming to the US and all travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. During the campaign, he had openly called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country, and it was clear that this was still the bigoted intent of the travel ban order.
The travel ban has gone through several iterations as it has been repeatedly struck down by courts, but people forget that in the very first version, the ban included green card holders. Permanent residents of the United States were initially being told they would not be permitted to return to their homes.
During the campaign, and even after Trump won, I had Godwin’s Law fatigue from all the Trump/Hitler comparisons. Prior to Trump being Hitler, Obama had been Hitler, and Bush was Hitler before that. Reflexively dismissing a president you don’t like as Hitler reincarnated is such a meaningless, flabby conceit.
But when you’re telling some of this nation’s permanent residents that they can’t come home because of their Arab origins, is there any other word that can adequately describe an atrocity like that other than fascism?
That particular “F” word has gotten tossed around so much that, like the other ubiquitous F word, it’s largely lost its meaning. But if you want to be reminded what fascism is, revisit Trump’s attempt to otherize an entire religion and keep all of its adherents out of the country. That’s textbook fascism. And that was the very first thing Trump tried to do as President of the United States.
For me, it was also a dealbreaker.
To that point, even given all of Trump’s vulgarity, stupidity, and all-around general awfulness, I was willing to wait and see and give the guy a chance. But it was clear that a president who made fascism his first priority was not a president who would be in any way acceptable, and he was a president I would have to actively oppose. The alternative, the idea of accepting or even tolerating a bit of fascism in exchange for something else I liked, would have cost me a piece of my soul.
And that, at least for me, is the answer to the question posed by the title of the post.
Good people voted for Trump, and good people have supported Trump at various points in his administration. But if you looked at a fascist travel ban and said, “I can live with that,” you are not as good a person as you were before. If you watched Trump say that “very fine people” were marching alongside literal Nazis in Charlottesville and you said, “Oh, that’s not a big deal,” you became less of a very fine person yourself. And if you looked at children in cages at the border and said, “That’s fine by me,” you lost another big chunk of your goodness.
How much goodness can someone lose and still be a good person?
The atrocities with this administration have come rapid-fire and in such high volume that it’s too easy to be inured to them. Remember, for instance, when Trump made baseless murder accusations against a talk show host he didn’t like? That was less than two weeks ago, but it’s already lost under the debris. The wreckage left in Trump’s wake keeps piling up that you can almost be forgiven for forgetting something as trivial as a President of the United States making up a murder charge out of thin air.
Because instead of being inured by all this, a good person needs to be outraged by it. A good person looks at the ocean of Trump bile that has washed over the country and says, “That’s not acceptable. That can’t continue. It has to stop.”
So can you be a good person and support Donald Trump? Well, that depends on how much goodness you had to start with. Because if you keep giving up chunks of your soul, at some point there’s not going to be anything left.