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  • Writer's pictureRob

What if I just kind of whimpered a little?

Almost exactly four years ago, this is how I was feeling:

Looking back from the other side of Trump's electoral defeat (probably!), I think I got it about half right.

Flighty and incompetent? Oh, most definitely.

What I didn't realize at the time was that the vile agenda was an illusion.

Trump had no goals. No policies he wanted to enact. At first, it looked like we might be headed for Steve Bannon-style white nationalism, but then Trump got annoyed with Bannon and canned him. Throughout his entire administration, Trump just said or tweeted or fired whatever felt good to him in the moment, and left it to the rest of his staff and party to invent reasons for it after the fact. The Republican platform for the 2020 election was literally "we give up, it's whatever Trump says."

I find many things baffling about Trump's supporters, but the one that always just left me reeling was when one would say something like "He kept his promises." What promises? The unbuilt wall, unpaid for by Mexico? Zeno's replacement for Obamacare that protects preexisting conditions, somehow always two weeks away? His administration is singularly without achievement, or even purpose.

But his supporters really believe what they say. They really do believe he's kept his promise. It's just that to them, his promises had nothing to do with laws passed or policies enacted. They have been looking at an entirely different scorecard.

Smarter people than me figured this out right away. But what's become apparent over the last four years is that Trump's followers care about exactly one thing. It isn't low taxes, or health care, or the size of the deficit. It isn't even white supremacy, at least not for most of them.

It's about "owning the libs." That's it. That's what they care about.

They care about watching "their team" run up the score on the other "team." They want to watch as someone who infuriates all the people they perceive to be smug and weak, the ones they think are looking down their noses are "real Americans." They don't care about any of the other stuff a government does - they just want to be Nelson Muntz, pointing their finger at "the libs" and saying "ha ha."

They was the promise they heard from Trump. And on that front, he has delivered.

There are going to be a lot of columns written during the transition (hopefully!) from this administration to the next, about healing the nation's rifts, about how to get along with the other side, about how to stop seeing in red vs. blue.

But there's a fundamental problem that I don't know how to solve. The issues that divide us are not ones that can be discussed or debated. The disagreements aren't about tax policy, or how to provide health care, or whether we should privatize social security. It's not a case where both sides want the country to be great for everyone and they just disagree about how to make that happen.

The issue is that one side of the divide is motivated primarily by wanting to see the other side suffer.

How are we supposed to find common ground? What's the peace offering here? "I know you want me to cry, but let's just meet in the middle and I'll kind of whimper without openly weeping?"

Defeating Trump at the polls (hopefully!) is a start. But 70 million Americans still voted for him. Figuring out what to do next is going to be much more complicated.

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