As a citizen, I have been dismayed at the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency, but as an educator, I have been horrified. How can we ever explain to our children and our children’s children that we allowed this man-child to become the most powerful person in the world?
Yet amidst the chaos of this misbegotten administration there is a silver lining, what we in the ed biz like to call a “teachable moment.” Congratulations to Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake for finally having learned their lessons.
As a public service to children everywhere — and to Republican elected officials and my fellow citizens who have yet to learn these lessons — I’d like to make the most of this teachable moment.
To wit, when someone, before being elected,
• agrees to pay $25 million in damages for defrauding students at his “university”
• as part of his business model, declares bankruptcy no fewer than four times in order to avoid paying workers and contractors
• brags about being entitled to grab women’s genitals because he’s a “star”
• according to his ghostwriter is a congenital and shameless liar
• threatens and incites violence against opponents
• ridicules and mocks people with physical disabilities
• attacks and insults a Gold Star family
• lies about having opposed the Iraq war
• claims he could shoot someone on 5th Ave. and not lose any support
• had entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice requiring his firm to asssure there would be no racial or ethnic discrimination in apartment rentals
• has nearly 200 officials of his own party publicly state serious doubts about his fitness to be president (a small sampling: “phony,” “demagogue,” “fraud,” “sociopath,” “rooted in ignorance and prejudice”),
do not be shocked when, after being elected, he
• repeatedly makes bogus claims about millions of illegal votes that cost him the popular vote
• repeatedly lies about the size of the crowds at his inauguration
• lies about being wiretapped by President Obama
• doubles the membership fee to his private club
• names family members with no known qualifications to advisory positions in his administration
• lies about how much greater and cheaper health care will be if the Affordable Care Act is ditched
• blames members of his own party for his leadership failures in the doomed Republican efforts to ditch the Affordable Care Act
• lies to both Democrats and Republicans about his stance on immigration issues (aside from remarkable consistency on a nutty wall idea)
• lies about the middle class being the big winners in his tax plan
• flip and flops and dishes “untruths,” as Sen. Corker so genteelly put it, to members of his own party about his stance on tax plan details
• hurls senseless schoolyard taunts to a dangerous adversary who is at least as narcissistic and egotistical as he
• undermines his chief diplomat, who has expressed scorn for him
• undermines and publicly humiliates his chief law enforcement officer
• gets into a useless scrape with a Gold Star widow
• continually alienates and insults members of his party, undermining his own legislative agenda. (Full disclosure: This part is ok with me.)
In short, no one should be the least bit surprised at what’s going on in the White House. The surprise is how many people — most Republican elected officials and Trump’s so-called “base” of 35-40 percent of the electorate — were duped and continue to ignore Trump’s outrages, don’t care enough to do anything about them, or worst of all, celebrate them.
It’s of course too late to undo what is done. Impeachment is a pipe dream. The Electoral College could have saved us from this travesty by keeping a “man not endowed with the requisite qualifications,” in the words of Alexander Hamilton, from the presidency. But to my knowledge not a single Republican stepped forward who before the election had expressed grave doubts about Trump, put her or his money where his or her mouth was, and lobbied — even implored — electors not to hand the election to Trump.
No sense in crying over this now. For the next three years, containment is the best we can hope for; and even this will be a challenge.
So here is the big lesson from this painful and still-unfolding episode in the civic life of our nation: Trump gained the presidency because too many people were not paying enough attention. We must all pay better attention from here on out.
More to the point, we must first mobilize to limit the damage being done by this administration. Second, we must make sure that this perversion isn’t repeated. We will all flunk otherwise, and the consequences will be far worse than a simple F.
How will we then explain to our children this complicity through inaction?