In 2016, a few days after Jeb got routed in South Carolina, I was back at South Beach, sunning myself, reading a coming-of-age novel, nursing my wounds and a lukewarm beer. It was a routine that I intended to repeat every day for a few weeks.
But then I got a call from a work friend with a proposition. Would I be interested in running communications for a group that was trying to stop Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination? At the time I still didn’t quite believe that this manifest incompetent could actually become president, so I ignored the advice of friends and mentors who warned me about taking a career risk by crossing a guy who might win.
My view at the time was pretty simple and something I didn’t really stop and do a lot of calculating about: This was stuff I’m pretty good at. The prospect of Donald Trump as president was unacceptable in every imaginable sense. It would be better for everyone to stop him sooner rather than later. And I’d like to be a part of that effort. So it began.
In the intervening 1,712 days, nothing outside of my family consumed my thoughts more than defeating Donald Trump and helping to save the country I love. Maybe you felt something similar. I hope not. Having so much Trump on the brain hasn’t been pleasant.
But lots—and lots—of folks did. Because Trump represented something new in American politics. His sociopathic malice was all-consuming, his pathological need for attention was exhausting, and what his rise said about our country, our friends, our families has been wrenching.
It was a car crash you can’t avoid rubbernecking, no matter how hard you tried.
On the eve of the 2016 election, the one thing that I most looked forward to was the prospect of never having to consider Donald Trump again. Never having to waste another solitary brain particle on him.
Alas it wasn’t to be then. It certainly hasn’t been the case during this week’s 50+ hour Steve Kornacki Big Board binge fest. Nor will it be going forward. We are not done with Donald Trump as a malignant force in American politics just because he was defeated in his re-election bid. He will still be in office for eleven critical weeks. Then we will have to contend with him for years to come. He may have broken something fundamental in our country that will take a generation to fix. I understand all that.
But those impending threats shouldn’t minimize the enormity of what we accomplished in brushing him back.
And it doesn’t make this next sentence any less sweet.
Donald Trump: You’re Fucking Fired.
This week’s election has left us with a lot to be anxious about. Tens of millions of people will believe that it was stolen from the president. They will think that because the president himself says it and because his aligned propaganda outlets are seeding this paranoia. We’ve already seen thwarted attempts at violence following this conspiracy mongering.
The mainstream media spent umpteen hours allowing these conspiracies to fester, refusing to make a call that they would certainly not have delayed if the shoe were on the other foot and they weren’t petrified by the prospect of Sore Loserman’s launching his minions in their direction.
Moreover, it’s pretty damn troubling that there are tens of millions of people who affirmatively voted for Donald Trump not despite, but because of, what he has done over the last four years.
An overwhelming repudiation of this man’s cruelty was something that many of us craved, deep down in our bones. The election denied us the gratification of seeing our country unite and say, with one voice, that this is not who we are. That here, right matters.
In addition it looks, as of this writing, as if Joe Biden was denied the opportunity to have a Senate majority leader who will try to work with him to make the lives of people in our country better, rather than nihilistically try to kneecap him from the moment he puts his hand on the Bible.
But we mustn’t allow those disappointments to conceal what was achieved in this victory. What was overcome.
Donald Trump ran the most cynical and villainous campaign for re-election in modern American history.
He was impeached for extorting an ally into fabricating dirt on his opponent.
He indiscriminately violated the law that forbids presidents from using taxpayer resources to campaign. He even held his party’s national political convention on the White House lawn, like a trashy caudillo.
He weaponized the Department of Justice and pressured agencies to favor campaign propaganda over public health.
He smeared his opponent in ways that were grotesque even by the modern standards of electioneering, piling lie upon hideous lie.
He put the lives of untold tens of thousands of Americans at risk to hold the most reckless public gatherings in the entire world amid a global pandemic.
He had at his disposal a massive non-state media operation that echoed his every lie, no matter how preposterous, and ignored every piece of counter-evidence, in order to further his lies.
While Joe Biden hewed to the mores and norms of American politics and basic decency, Donald Trump tried to take every possible advantage, no matter how unethical, untrue, or immoral.
And in the face of all of that, Joe Biden is going to flip 4 or 5 states, end up with a decisive 6+ million margin and earn more votes than any presidential candidate in American history.
More people voted against Donald Trump than have ever voted against any president, ever.
You know what else Joe Biden accomplished? He won the presidency by running as himself. He never pretended to be something he wasn’t. He never resorted to smears or dirty tricks. He made some micro-adjustments on policy in order to stay in the mainstream of his party, but never pandered to his base. He committed to be a bipartisan president for all Americans, despite the desire in parts of the left to go scorched earth against any and all Republicans.
He won while sticking by his son, never throwing his kid under the bus, even when it would have been politically convenient.
He won alongside a running mate who will be the first female vice president of the United States. Think about this: America has now elected a black man and black woman to the highest offices in the land and the historic nature of this moment is barely even mentioned.
So what I’m trying to tell you is this: Yes, there are challenges. Yes, the outcomes could have been better for America. But Joe Biden’s ascension to the presidency is not a consolation prize.
It’s a very real victory for this country.
President Biden will be able to reverse Trump’s grotesquely un-American immigration regime.
America will have a trustworthy and competent executive branch managing the pandemic crisis.
The new president will restore the rule of law and ensure everyone is treated fairly, no matter their political orientation.
He’ll rebuild our alliances and tell the revanchist mini Trumps the world over that they can be allies in democracy and freedom, or go pound sand.
Most importantly he has stopped our nation’s slide towards the Orbán-esque soft authoritarianism that would have threatened the very fabric of our democratic republic had Trump won a second term and been even more unencumbered by political constraints.
This, my friends, is what sweet, sweet victory looks like. This is making our country a better place.
Americans should take pride in what we just accomplished. We could have succumbed to his madness. Success was by no means pre-ordained.
Instead we are able to revel in the culmination of a half-decade long fight against a menace unlike anything we’ve seen in this country in a long time.
So even though there is much work to be done, let us all indulge in a joyful sound and let it echo from sea to shining sea.
Say it with me.
Donald Trump: You are fired. You are fired. You. Are. FIRED.