Republican apologists for President Donald Trump, on defense for laughable sycophancy (”But Gorsuch!”), might keep in mind the horrifying performance of Vice President Mike Pence, who slobbered praise on his boss at a Cabinet gathering in a fair imitation of North Korean lackeys extolling Kim Jong Un. (”Thank you for seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that is truly restoring this country,” Pence said. “You’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records.”)
It’s ludicrous and horrifying in a democracy to see such bowing and scraping, but if you have read some right-wing media reviews of the year, you’ll see that Pence is not alone.
A Home Run! A Big Win! Um, can we get real?
The president failed at repealing and replacing Obamacare (we’ll get to the tax bill in a moment); rolled back a lot of regulations and threw climate-change deniers a bone by pulling out of the Paris accords in a vain attempt to revive the coal industry; decimated and emasculated the State Department; put the United States on the side of human rights abusers; engaged in self-enrichment (the extent of which we will never know unless we get a look at his tax returns); appointed some of the worst White House aides and Cabinet secretaries in history; attacked the rule of law and other democratic norms; and refused to recognize that Russia had attacked our democracy and meddled in our election.
He also fired an FBI director, threatened the special counsel and made up scurrilous lies (e.g. President Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower) in what is arguably a plot to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight. He has come close to starting trade wars and defended neo-Nazis.
He coarsened our culture, expanded cronyism and endorsed an accused child molester. Syria has been handed over to Iran and Russia on a silver platter. Yes, Trump appointed a lot of judges — some good and some horrifically unqualified and partisan.
On the tax bill, he flooded us with new debt and produced a grab bag of goodies for the super-rich and corporations. By repealing the individual mandate, he put further financial burdens on his own supporters, making the Affordable Care Act even less affordable. On the positive side, he has not tricked the voters into liking the bill.
Trump, in our book, has been a disaster. (He gets no points for not starting a nuclear war and not building a wall that even Republicans oppose.) The notion that a tax bill that expands inequality and runs up the debt makes it all worthwhile strikes us as on a par with Pence’s boot-licking.
Now, that doesn’t mean the year has been an unmitigated horror. Consider:
▪ The travel ban was struck down multiple times - and Trump abided by the rulings, even of “so-called judges.” The attack on sanctuary cities (which have no real definition) failed in court as well.
▪ Trump’s nonstop insults and intimidation tactics had zero impact on tough investigative reporting. Indeed, the media’s popularity exceeds Trump’s as more Americans express thanks for a free press willing to debunk his unending lies.
▪ Roy Moore lost in Alabama, as did Ed Gillespie in Virginia, who ran as “Trump-lite.”
▪ Participatory democracy (attending rallies, running for office, volunteering, subscribing to newspapers) is enjoying a renaissance.
▪ Decent conservatives concerned about defense of democracy are collaborating with and supporting progressives who share their concerns. Many have recovered an appreciation for “first principles” that bind us together and rise above partisan politics.
▪ The charlatans have at least been exposed - right-wing intellectual frauds, huckster evangelicals, greedy congressmen (gobbling up tax goodies), Russia apologists, etc. Fox News has been disgraced again and again by its conspiracy-mongering and by sexual harassment revelations. It has become a self-parody of state media. (By contrast, a merry band of (hash)NeverTrumpers is in fighting form.)
▪ Women are speaking up and ridding media, government and business of some of the worst sexual predators (although there’s still a long way to go).
▪ Robert Mueller is on the Russia case, silently and efficiently gathering evidence and racking up plea deals. Michael Flynn is singing like a bird.
▪ The economy is humming along (before the tax bill has been signed), unemployment is low and inflation is virtually nonexistent.
▪ Trump continued the Obama administration’s anti-Islamic State strategy, which largely routed the caliphate from Iraq.
▪ At the state and local level, Republicans and Democrats work cooperatively to pass budgets and attend to the people’s business.
▪ Sports, business and entertainment figures have found their moral voice.
Trump, in short, was every bit as horrible as we anticipated (as was the intellectual and moral corruption of the GOP), but the country fared better than expected. America really is a great country that survived nearly a year under Trump.