For years, starting when President Donald Trump rode down the escalator in 2015 to announce his run for the presidency and call Mexican immigrants drug dealers and rapists, we who opposed Trump waited for him to change. It’s comical, really: it was those most appalled by Trump who believed he could not possibly be this bad.
We looked for “the pivot” to honesty, thoughtfully chosen words, maturity and respect toward others that had to come. Because, we thought, if the pivot did not come, he could never be elected.
We looked for the pivot in the GOP debates, and at the Republican National Convention, and during the general election. Shocked by his win and still confused about Trump’s followers, we looked for the pivot in his inauguration speech, and then during Trump’s first days in office. Because we thought if the pivot did not come, his supporters and Republicans must eventually turn on him.
But then, finally, we stopped looking for Trump to change. We accepted that there would never be a pivot from our president, that he was unwilling or unable to be honest, respectful, thoughtful and kind.
Instead, we started looking for the change of heart from Republican politicians and Trump’s supporters. Because we thought that even though he’d been elected as an insulting, selfish, foul-mouthed and bullying liar, he’d not keep his support with such behavior.
We thought Americans would not tolerate bullies, and Trump is a colossal bully. We thought Americans would not tolerate being lied to, and Trump lies so consistently, often contradicting his own statements, that he may not recognize the difference between truth and falsehood. We thought Americans would not tolerate phonies and fakers who have no idea what they’re talking about, and Trump is a colossal phony and faker whose ignorance shines like a beacon.
And we thought Americans, and conservatives in particular, would not tolerate a president who simpered and cowered and danced for a second-rate dictator. Vladimir Putin’s Russia does not even approach the fearsomeness of the old Soviet Union that President Ronald Reagan confronted at every turn. Yet Monday Trump behaved with Putin as if the United States is a weak nation and Russia is the world’s only superpower. And Tuesday, Trump’s attempt to claim he merely misspoke in accepting Putin’s denial of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and rejecting the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies was more insult than apology.
But the politicians and people empowering Trump are not pivoting any more than Trump did. It seems they never will.
This is now an impasse that goes beyond politics. This is now a conflict that those willing to fight Trump and his supporters cannot and should not rise above. This is now a time when there should be no peace at the dinner table. The moment when there can be no peace in the streets is nearing.
Every U.S. president has been flawed. Trump, though, is the only president to call his flaws — lying, bullying and the cowering to a grave national enemy — virtues, and to demand we call them virtues, too. That some supporters do so is shocking and unacceptable.
Americans cannot honor such behavior, or tolerate it being honored. The behavior, and the tolerance of it, must be challenged and defeated.
Lest the term “Americans” comes to mean nothing at all.
Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.