Did you know in 2016 how bad Trump really is?

In another thread, @Hari_Seldon said, “Even in 2016, I have to say. I mean we knew that Trump was bad, but no idea how bad.” I will say that I really was pretty sure I knew how bad Trump was in 2016. A good friend knowing that I was sinking into abject depression over the election sent me this article in the Atlantic with a “chin up” message. I responded with an off-the-cuff but I think pretty accurate assessment (spoilered below) of how bad I thought Trump would be. I for one, think I knew what we were getting into. Did you know how bad Trump would be?


I’m still devastated. That article is idiotic though. It’s true - we have a largely divided, partisan country. I thought it was a partisan divide marked by matters like whether reducing capital gains taxes will increase investment or increasing capital gains taxes will fund education, both largely with the goal of increasing prosperity for a lot of Americans. In some ways, this would be like arguing whether the Red Sox or the Yankees are a better team, Instead, we can’t agree on whether baseball is a better sport than global thermonuclear war. A significant percentage of American voters seem to be goading us towards the latter. This election has revealed that our heretofore mostly civil partisan divides were masking a subtext of racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, raw hatred, and naked self interest.

A near plurality of Americans can’t agree that they don’t want as their president a man who is interested in women solely as sexual objects; who will trade away global political stability as long as as he receives fawning praise from the Russian president; who doesn’t believe that global warming is even real; whose abandonment of constitutional values has him endorsing torture, curbed freedom of speech about political figures, reduced freedom of religion if you are Muslim, and racial profiling in policing. This is a man who no thoughtful, right-thinking person could truly support. Even if you searched hard and found one or two redeeming features – and I can understand why, for example, pro-lifers could find at least some of his statements heartwarming – you cannot escape the conclusion that he is so insincere, untrustworthy, biased, and ignorant that there is no way he could be the president he pretends to want to be, and he has no intention of even trying.

He is a real-life troll that was somehow elected president of the United States of America. He did so when competing against a woman who is better prepared for the job than any person who has ever held it before her. A woman whose greatest critics can only say that perhaps she used her influence to solicit money for a highly-effective charity and that she definitely took some risks with her email in order to shield largely innocuous things from the glare of unfair conspirators agitating against her. People who criticize her for those things fail to note that our president-elect’s idea of charity is illegally diverting income to his charity to evade taxes and soliciting funds from others to spend himself. Who has ties to organized crime figures. Who believes that only suitable staff are the fruit of his loins. Who caters to white nationalists. Who, by some accounts, conspired with Russian agents interfering with our election. Who spent months campaigning against everything the current White House has accomplished but who also waited until after the election to Google how Obamacare works. And who fails to grasp the basic rudiments of government, like that he will have to hire his own White House staff.

With this election, the very idea that America is a meritocracy is dead. All we can look forward to is learning whether it is soon to become a kleptocracy, a fascist dictatorship, a failed puppet state whose policy is dictated by foreign interests, or, perhaps, if we are very, very lucky, maybe just a country who loses the opportunity for advancement and shared prosperity for at least the next four years while we regret what we did last Tuesday…

No, this election revealed a lot more about America than basic partisan politics. We are divided on the very notion of decency. We seem to share no common goals or beliefs. We are riven and many of us are living with newfound fear that the people around us have values so far divorced from our own that those others cannot be trusted. This is mortifying.

  • side note - I won’t claim I was being hyperbolic about Clinton but, in retrospect, I clearly overstated her qualifications. I my view, she was more qualified than almost any president but, I really think George H.W. Bush was the best qualified president in any of our lifetimes. Obama was probably the least. And yet, I think Obama was certainly a better president than Bush the elder. Qualifications ain’t everything.

Yes. But, I grew up in New York in the 80s. I even subscribed to Spy Magazine in my college years.

This was the point I knew he would be more than grossly incompetent. Even more so when there was no outcry from the GOP.

I knew he would be bad. But he exceeded my expectations. I thought having no core convictions would allow him to work across the aisle to get things done. I was naive back then.

I’d known of him since the late '80s, even though I did not live in New York. Even then, he came across as full of bluster and self-importance, and I was pretty sure that he was a pretty terrible person, and likely not as successful as he made himself out to be.

Certainly, by this time in 2016, he’d made it abundently clear to anyone who was paying attention that he was driven purely by his own ego, that he would happily engage in race-baiting to fire up his base (and was, probably, himself a racist), that he was convinced that he was so smart that he didn’t need to read or learn anything, and that what he really wanted to be was not president, but king. None of that pointed to a successful presidency, or a good outcome for our country.

I thought Trump was an idiot, and I had a feeling he would win. Told my friends that, and they laughed.

I figured he’d be bad, but that he would grow into the office and act somewhat presidential. That he would cool it with the tweets and name-calling. I really thought he’d let down his supporters by actually acting like and behaving like a president.

I was definitely wrong about that.

I didn’t know anything about him except he was a rich guy who’d been on that reality show my mom watched. What I saw of him didn’t make me want to see any more, and I was happy to vote Democrat without needing to dig deeper. When he actually got elected, I was dismayed…but I also truly believed for a little while that he would throw off his TV persona and behave like a regular person.

I got some of the details wrong, certainly. I probably thought he would be more openly venal in some ways than he ended up being, and less in others. But I think overall I was about right.

This is what I posted on Facebook, Nov 8 2016:
To my Trump-supporting friends (all three or so of you), I have two things to say: (1) I hope to all hell that you’ve been right all along, and he will be good for the country (2) The thing I am most worried about is not domestic policy, or international policy, or even environmental policy, or the social ramifications, or the cultural ramifications. It’s that he does not understand the limitations on the office of the presidency, and because of his lack of understanding, and his narcissism, he will bend and warp them. I charge you with being vigilant guardians of the very foundations of our Democracy. Am I being alarmist? I truly hope I am. Four years from now if we have a peaceful election and a democratic transfer of power (or he gets honestly and democratically reelected), I give you absolute permission to bring up my alarmism and point and laugh. But I am very worried. If you had asked me 10 years ago to imagine a hypothetical way in which America could become an authoritarian dictatorship, I would have written a story which began with an election just like this one. (Also, I’m really really worried about domestic policy, and international policy, and environmental policy, and social ramifications, and cultural ramifications…)

I knew he was really bad, but I was also quite morbidly curious to see how a Trump presidency would unfold, too.

I would actually say no. Not because he wasn’t clearly absolutely awful in 2016, but that he exceeded my expectations in how bad he could be. Off the top of my head, I didn’t anticipate his bungling of the pandemic, caging children, or crippling the mail service. I also didn’t know how much of the presidency worked on tradition, allowing him to ignore so much. I also didn’t anticipate QAnon or how easily people would start ignoring facts.

We’re worse off with Trump as president in 2020 than I anticipated would be the most likely case, assuming we’d not had a nuclear war.

I knew that Trump would disgrace the office and degrade American democracy. But I predicted some of the details wrong. I thought it very likely that he’d start a war. I also thought his popularity would go below George Bush Jr.'s 28 percent.

I knew he would be awful, but I didn’t expect him to be a fascist. My hope was that he wasn’t actually very interested in being president beyond looting the country a little, and would let experts run the country. The USA could have easily survived a little looting. Early it looked like that might be the case with the blatant violations of the Hatch Act, and the tax cuts for the rich/donor class. I did not think that the assault on democracy would be so regular and brazen. I’m saddened to not be surprised that Republicans have applauded his efforts. “This is how democracy dies. To thunderous applause.” (by far the best line of dialogue in the Star Wars prequels) is so apt. Everything has become so venomously partisan that no matter what awful thing Trump did that was far outside the norms, the right-wing media had to fall in line and praise Dear Leader, and Republican politicians as well for fear of being primaried. The US system is broken.

This, pretty much. His lack of any obvious ideology made him hard to predict, but I never dreamed he would be so resistant to even halfway competent advice. The utter shambles of his rapidly rotating presidential staff and advisors I think is the clearest indicator and just how chaotic and toxic his presidency has been. He can’t even manage those closest to him, nor allow himself to be managed on even the most minor of issues.

His buffoonery was an obvious and long standing trait. His every success from the escalator moment was an utter and complete shock to me. And even when he won the election, I was sure he would flame out in a spectacular way in a matter of months. That he made it this far remains shocking to me, bordering on the incomprehensible. The thing that I got over sooner than I had imagined is his ~63M supporters. I mean, after he had beaten the odds, the fact that his odds turned out to be pretty damn good was the least surprising and most revealing thing of all about America.

Everyone should have known how bad he was. What was unexpected was the inability of the rest of the GOP to contain him and control his worst impulses. He really has them by the balls.

I knew how bad Trump was, I just had no idea how bad 40% of my fellow citizens were.

Yes I did - he’s just like my boss. I have to say, though, that just like Elmer_J.Fudd, I was surprised to find how bad so many of my fellow citizens are.

I actually believed some of the “Never Trumpers” would come out on the right side. Maybe we’d see one or two change parties. At the very least, we’d see some of them vote against their party and perhaps earn a Profiles In Courage award. Boy was I wrong about that. Any Republican defections were on meaningless votes. Even Romney gets to go down in history as the only man to vote against his party in an impeachment hearing but, of course, he only did that when the Repubs had a double-digit margin for defectors.

I thought this was possible but unlikely.

I can’t say I predicted those particular things but it was clear that he was entirely incompetent. He led every large enterprise he ran into the ground. I didn’t know the particulars of how he would fail but I was certain he would.

I thought so too. As sad as I was after the election, watching the stubbornness of his approval ratings means that my fellow Americans continue to sadden me more deeply.

I hoped he would. My wife got angry at Mitt Romney, a diehard never Trumper, for going to Trump Tower after the election, reportedly to talk about being Secretary of State. I told my wife at the time was that all decent Republicans should offer their services to the president regardless of their personal feelings about him or his fitness for office. In fact, our country needed both for these people to step up and for Trump to recognize the best people for each job. Instead, he went out of his way to pick the people who would do literally the most damage possible to the institutions they were running.

The GOP has really gone above and beyond in excusing their man’s rank incompetence and lack of character.

What did y’all expect when the political party dedicated to screwing people over for fun and profit was given license to do so by Trump?