Trump of the Gaps

He’ll fix it.

In Logic, the Divine fallacy argues the unexplainable is attributable to divinity. In the distant, pre-scientific past, when much of the natural world required need of supernatural explanation, these explanations filled a yawning gap between fantasy and fact. As humankind mastered empirical discovery, the supernatural lost ground to the logical and evident. This lost ground required the unknown, the “gaps,” be filled in with affirmations of divine presence. If it could not yet be explained, then the hand of the divine was at play. This concept is the God of the Gaps.

In politics, the defenders and loyalists of the present person or party in power use two tools of defense: whataboutism and a political manifestation of the Divine fallacy. No pundit or prognosticator is free of this malfunction of rational thought. When Obama was president, his defenders contorted themselves to present Obama as the moral savior of America. Obama, as a person, seemed a decent man and did not deserve the relentless vitriol of his detractors over such nonsense as a tan suit and assumptions of his birthplace or religious values. Obama, like all public servants, elected or not, is subject to the critical eye of journalists and citizens. The public servant must answer for his or her decisions to the people who put him or her in their position.

Which brings us to the surreal landscape of 2020. Although he lost the popular vote, though he disputes even this as fraudulent, Trump became president from the arcane mechanism unique to American politics known as the Electoral College. Whether it is a relic of slaveholder supremacy or the Founders’ bulwark against the ill judgment of easily swayed populace for wise, learned men is a debate for another time. Donald Trump will become one of the most consequential presidents in the history of the United States. At the very least, he has already self-assumed the greatest president mantle.

Trump’s administration entered the White House under clouds of disarray and scandal. Investigations were already happening; Obama briefed Trump and his team on Russian electoral interference. Given the preponderance of the evidence that has since come to light, Obama and his intelligence team likely were already briefing people directly beneficial to this interference and aware of it.

The wrongdoing of Trump, his family, and his administration is well documented but exhausting to keep up with. Amy Suskind started early on with her now famous “The List,” detailing changes large and small she felt, rightly so, were making The US feel a little less like a democratic republic every passing week. Scott Pruitt, since gone, and Ben Carson, miraculously still in his role as HUD chief, were early adopters of spending for personal gain and defending against the press with relaxation bubbles for their office, in Pruitt’s case. Betsy DeVos, a woman of no qualifications to lead anything beyond a local gardening club, bought her way into the job as Education Secretary, where she has attempted to dismantle every student and teacher protection policy for profit. Her primary goal of re-routing already low public-school funding to private and religious schools has been another issue with her leadership.

Lists upon lists upon lists are made and available for a myriad of the ongoing investigations, scandals, coverups, and blatant illegalities of Trump and his people. Those are important and in need of in-depth, intense scrutiny.

Trump, both the man and what he represents in government and private life, has created an environment of non-belief in anything he affirms is not valid. Media is the enemy of the people; Liberals are radical America hating leftists bent on destroying the constitutional order, and so on. Whatever his 3 am twitter rant is, a not-insignificant number of Americans take it as political gospel.

Trump is their God of the Gaps. When the power of evidence and crumbing of selective cognitive denial disallow the intellectual white noise generator of Trump’s followers, they fill in the Gaps. Early on, it was an easy but giant excuse: he tells it like it is, or its co-defendant for indecency, he is just saying what we all were thinking. Never mind that at least sixty-five million people was not thinking whatever Trump said that day, the sheer volume of verified falsehoods dismisses the first -telling it like it is-and calls into question the humanity of those who agree with the second-just saying what we were all thinking.

Eventually, as those faded away from the discourse because of the consistently awful things Trump said, the Gaps became filled with his just joking or he is trolling. Donald Trump, in his position as president, can never “just joke.” The volume of the voice of his office reaches across the globe and carries gravity. That Trump and his cohorts do not care, do not understand, or intentionally use that voice in service of debasement, or vile commentary is a damning indictment of character.

Trump is just joking or that he speaks off the cuff, a softening of the tell it like it is narrative, has never lost steam with many of his defenders. Many of his voters, always republicans, anti-tax and anti-regulation zealots, for instance, sought to assure the panicked minds of those around them who thought their friends and family had lost their minds by asserting “I do not like what he has to say, but I support his policies.” Again, the value of or efficacy of his policies is a long and intensely debated topic. However, the presidency has long been considered an office of character as much as policy. At least, until 2016.

Connect The Dots

George Will, the famed conservative columnist for the Washington Post, rightly told his readers that Trump has no bottom when it comes to political depravity. Time and again, Trump and his administration, his allies in the House and Senate, and those in his executive branch have born this truth out. Trump, he of the famous “you’re fired,” cannot fire inspectors general fast enough for them to find wrongdoing on his actions in office. Every major figure he removes, at one point, an amazing hire, which is the best people at his or her job, secures a multi-million-dollar book deal to reveal the dysfunction at the heart of the machine. Trump rails against them, the books skyrocket in sales. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Trump’s children, on taxpayer money both legally and illegally, have traveled the world and run up massive bills at Trump properties while on private business. Ivanka and Jared Kushner, who both have enough compromising international ties it will take ten lifetimes to investigate them all, use the authority of the president to secure trade exemptions, business loans, debt rearrangement and forgiveness, and regulatory easement in foreign countries. The proof, while incomplete, is irrefutable and extends well before the Trump presidency. What fills in the gaps of this corruption? Of a corruption that would have and did bring down other leaders? “Why wouldn’t he use his office for that stuff. I just do not see the issue as long as he continues to govern according to my interests.” Corruption is fine if the corruption is for me and not for thee.

Corruption is fine is where those who elected Donald Trump would likely have ended their Gaps-filling were it not for COVID-19. Economists, Psychologists, Sociologists, and Historians can all tell anyone who asks people are selfish and political tribes are an especially heinous version of that selfishness. In their time in power, Democrats were and will be again fine with corruption. That is the song the fiddler plays. The difference is not what the electorate finds acceptable, a crisis unto itself, but the insecurities of the man at the top and the destruction it has and could continue to do to the United States.

The Coronavirus laid bare the stunning incompetence of Donald Trump and the crass indifference of those around him. Although he knew early on the severity of the risk of the virus, he would not risk his political power on the hard decisions needed to tame the spread. To make those decisions required care for others, an emotion Trump has never had, if his niece Mary Trump is believed. The virus spread as viruses do, and the lack of action from the federal government led to a haphazard but brave response from the states. Mario Cuomo, no hero nor deserving of praise for his brutal politics, suddenly became the face of reason and calm. Gavin Newsom, too. When the government finally responded, it did so with strong-arming and bullying. Trump wanted to be praised for the blink, and you will miss it effort he put into responding. As time plodded on, the country has forty million lost jobs, millions about to lose residencies, chaos in the education system, skyrocketing infection rates, a world-leading death toll.

And how are the Gaps filled in? Can they be?

A hoax.

The Chinese did it.

But do masks really work?

Trump and his cronies are not having a good year. The nation is under a crushing amount of debt. Our allies despise us. Our enemies have manipulated the president’s vanity and fear of exposure to their own ends. The streets are on fire with a reckoning over police brutality. Every response Trump makes is met with derision and mockery. His party has turned on him. The White House is becoming the Berlin bunker. Stephen Miller and Bill Barr are assuring Trump he is no doubt America’s most exceptional leader and the one man who can return it to glory, while the rest of the country wakes up from the hangover.

The Gaps are getting harder to fill. Trump will always have his defenders, his loyalists, and those willing to sink on his ship with him. History knows Trump will leave office, and none of his crimes will be held to account.

No matter how much the gaps close with evidence, with activism, with elections, with a reversal of the Trumpian way, there will always be some who will never see the chaos created by Trump, so bathed in his divine light, so willing to find the slivers of acceptable behavior and results. To the suffering of us all.

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Husband of one, father of one, special education teacher, student of history, sometime author, all day dreamer.

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Noah Ingram

Noah Ingram

Husband of one, father of one, special education teacher, student of history, sometime author, all day dreamer.

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