Every American knows the axiom: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
That is why no one who voted for Donald J. Trump to be the President of the United States for all the right reasons should feel ashamed, no matter how sordid and shameful his own dealings may turn out to be. Look, he’s had nearly fifty years to practice and perfect the art of looking good to those he’s about to swindle. Sub-contractors who had far more expertise at spotting untrustworthy clients also fell under his spell and did business with him, only to find out he never had any intention of paying them what he promised to pay them.
And certainly the average voter is not capable of evaluating his skills as an executive. To all appearances, he had the right stuff. He achieved “the American dream” of becoming a famous multi-billionaire and, just to drive the point home, set up a theater where each week millions of us could watch him evaluate some hopeful apprentice’s skills and show us how smart and powerful he was by saying “You’re fired!” This became to many a very impressive public display of executive authority and competence, never mind that it was just made-for-TV entertainment.
So my heart goes out, deeply and sincerely, to the hardworking people who heard him promise them better jobs, better healthcare, better everything. He’s good at promises. He’s really, really good at them. Anyone who watched him at that rally in West Virginia the other night going through his campaign speech all over again couldn’t help but be reminded of that. The made-for-TV cheering section just behind him all but foamed at the mouth in rabid enthusiasm for those empty promises one more time.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democrats made it easy to give up on them, by taking victory for granted and running the most uninspiring campaign in recent memory. All Americans yearn to feel the greatness of America, and those who are being left behind yearn to feel it working for them personally. The Democrats intended that, and Hillary Clinton had an excellent and boring array of programs to achieve true progress for hard-pressed Americans, but the Democratic party was hopelessly outgunned in getting that message across.
So here we are. It is increasingly clear that Trump is not only incapable of delivering, but that he may in fact have taken office under false pretenses and may in fact be indicted for crimes yet to be defined, the most mundane of which would be money-laundering and most horrible of which would be treason in collaborating with Russia to sabotage our voting process.
Learning faster than his sadder-but-wiser subcontractors and die-hard Trump supporters, Republican leaders in the United States Senate showed they would not be fooled by him a second time and refused to formally recess their current session, for fear this shameful man would do something dastardly while free of their oversight. What an astounding indictment by his own party leaders. But their disdain of Donald J. Trump creates a dilemma for those voters who poured so much hope and so much of their personal judgment and self-esteem into voting for him. He’s having a bad year, and it looks like it’ll only get worse until he’s out of the Oval Office one way or another.
All of us who are sports fans root for “our team” whether it’s having a good year or a rotten year. That’s loyalty. I’m a longtime Red Sox fan, and the longer they went without a World Series victory, the more I rooted for them to end The Curse of the Bambino and finally get those championship rings. My buddy Jim grew up in Chicago a Cubs fan, and he knows exactly what I’m talking about. We true fans stick with “our” team through thick and thin. (Yes, both the Red Sox and the Cubs finally delivered, so the analogy must end right here.)
The analogy ends, and rooting as a fan of Team Trump must painfully end, because Donald Trump will not—can not—deliver on his promises. In fact, I suspect, the emergence of the new Grand Jury in D.C. and the eventual indictments that will be delivered to the White House addressed to him and his family will prompt him to pull the plug on his Presidency while he can still escape on his own terms as a self-declared winner. He could not stand to be drummed out as a loser; that would literally be a fate worse than death for a genuine narcissist like Donald J. Trump. Rather than go down in flames as the most shameful loser ever to be fired by the American judicial system, he’ll turn over the reins to V.P. Mike Pence with the understanding that Pence’s first act after his swearing-in will be to issue blanket pardons to Trump and his family and all others on his team who may be indictable.
Once free of a difficult job it’s not clear he ever wanted to do anyhow, Trump can retire to his gilded quarters at Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster and the Trump Tower loudly professing his innocence, castigating the swamp-dwellers for their fake news and kangaroo-court justice, and take up whatever pursuits will sustain from his remaining fans the flow of adulation to which he is so addicted.
But Trump voters are off the hook. They do not need to defend him. They do not need to go down with a ship whose captain will snatch a lifeboat and abandon ship before they do. It is okay to say, “Yep, he got me good. Snookered from the outset, done in by the best. But it’s over. Can’t fool me twice. Maybe that guy Pence can get something done.”