The most compelling stories often are those that feature a deeply unlikable villain against whom the forces of good must rally, and when the ink dries on this chapter in American history, the record will show that Donald Trump was that villain. His vulgarity knows no bounds, his incompetence and unfitness for the office he holds are unprecedented, and his utter lack of anything even vaguely resembling the empathy, gravitas, dignity or humility a man in his position should possess makes him an easy and highly deserving target of our collective rage and resistance. As awful as he is, however, Donald Trump is not the sum total of that against which we now must fight; he is merely the most glaring symptom of a larger malignancy. To wit:
Racists, sexists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes and sexual predators do not exist because Donald Trump is President.
Hypocritical, Bible-thumping evangelicals—people who gladly will take basic, life-saving services away from the needy in order to line their own pockets and who not only will vote for but actually will defend as Christ-like a credibly accused pedophile—do not exist because Donald Trump is President.
Provocative, incendiary, dishonest, dangerously subversive propaganda outlets like InfoWars and Breitbart and Fox News—and hateful, unhinged lunatics like Alex Jones, Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity—do not exist because Donald Trump is President.
Spineless, greedy, self-serving, traitorous, two-faced Republican politicians who put party ahead of country, who consistently rob the less fortunate in order to make the rich even richer, and who pander to the groups mentioned above do not exist because Donald Trump is President.
To the contrary, Donald Trump is President specifically because the aforementioned despicable elements of American society and the craven politicians who both cater to and exploit them have long existed, and their collective efforts—coupled with our collective inaction—created the kind of rancid, festering boil from which a Donald Trump could burst forth and slither into the White House.
Now for the (potentially) good news: In the event that Trump doesn't tweet us into a nuclear holocaust, his presidency might just end up being the wake-up call that saves America from fully succumbing to the slow rot that set the stage for his rise to power.
I know it's a hard sell to suggest that the Trump presidency is a good thing. America right now would be far better off if Hillary Clinton were President—at least in the short term. However, had she won the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton's victory would only have delayed the eventual arrival in the Oval Office of a fear-mongering demagogue like Donald Trump.
Let us envision an alternate reality in which the travesty known as the Electoral College is not a thing and Donald Trump's infinitely more qualified opponent is now the first female President of the United States. Congressional Republicans—who have made quite clear that they in no way were prepared to govern, and that they themselves were certain of a Clinton victory—currently would be doing that which they perfected during President Obama's eight years in office: Blocking every single Democratic and White House initiative while putting forth one ridiculous piece of legislation after another, all of it written in bad faith, all of it solely designed to appease their base, and all of it submitted without fear of reprisal or accountability because they know it is hot garbage that never will be signed into law.
In this same alternate reality, not only would Republicans be grinding Congress to a standstill, but also they would be wreaking havoc on the Clinton presidency via their Republican-chaired congressional committees—you know, the same committees whose Republican members currently are responding to overwhelming evidence of criminal activity within the Trump campaign and administration not by following the facts and pursuing justice, but instead by shrieking "What about Hillary?"
It is a safe bet that those very Republicans would by now be impeaching Madame President for wearing white after Labor Day while their right-wing propaganda machines leveraged her presidency to further fan the flames of hate and division that made it possible for a garbage human like Donald Trump to become president in the first place.
And so, given that the eventual inauguration of a fear-mongering fascist was inevitable, let us be thankful that the nightmare president with which we ended up is an empty-headed, unqualified, unprepared, self-consumed moron who never expected to actually win the election, and who therefore had no plan for what to do if he did. Yes, things are awful, and the damage he is causing—particularly within the judicial branch—will be far-reaching and long-lasting ... but just imagine if, instead of a bloviating, dimwitted, narcissistic boob, we had to contend with an evil, Machiavellian genius who had spent years plotting out a thoughtful and meticulously prepared course for winning the presidency and taking dictatorial control of America.
My point: We have a chance to fix this.
If you're like me, this "Open Letter of Apology" that I wrote to President Obama just prior to Trump's inauguration rings true for you as well. Here's the gist:
I was an outspoken supporter during both of your presidential runs, and I contributed what little cash I could here and there throughout your campaigns. Once you were in office, however, my position could best be summed up as: “He’s got this.”
“He’s got this” was a cop out. “He’s got this” was my epic failure to be the citizen you deserved. “He’s got this” earned us the predicament in which we now find ourselves.
Yes, it is a travesty that many of us didn't realize this sooner. Yes, I wish we could go back and have a do-over. Unfortunately, that's not an option. Time to play it where it lies.
Here's the encouraging part: If you have the impression that a bunch of us who before were asleep now are woke AF and ready to fix the mess we helped create, you're not wrong.
Please watch this:
We have an opportunity to wrestle back control of our government. If you're sick of politicians who represent greedy corporate executives and wealthy special-interest groups, if you're tired of gun laws written to benefit NRA lobbyists instead of protecting American citizens, if you believe healthcare is a human right, if you agree that it is our obligation as decent human beings to place the interests of the many above the interests of a privileged few, you have a chance to do something about it.
VOTE. THEM. OUT.
Speaking out is good. Protesting is good. Resisting is good. Putting pressure on our current elected officials is good. The most effective means we have for drowning out the hateful minority that currently holds sway over our government, however, is to turn out in droves on election days and put into office people whom we know share our values and will represent our interests. We have from now until November 6th to seek out and support those people, to encourage others to do the same, and to get out the vote on Election Day.
Ever hear the expression "It's a marathon, not a sprint"? Well, this is like that, except worse: "It's a marathon ... THAT NEVER ENDS." I now know from experience that putting the right person in office isn't the finish line; it's a checkpoint on a never-ending course. Once we've put them there, we must continue to run alongside them, encourage them to keep going, and hold them accountable. Only by doing so can we reclaim our democracy from the vile, greedy, spineless, self-serving cretins whom we've allowed to take over.
Need some more encouragement to get and/or stay involved? OK, let me tell you a quick, inspirational, one-sentence story:
Once upon a time, Donald fucking Trump is the President of the United States.
There's your villain. Now get to work.
Vote.org - This site will let you check to see if you're registered to vote, get you registered if you're not, help you find your polling place and/or get an absentee ballot, and send you election reminders so that you never miss an election day.
SwingLeft.org - Go here to find out how you can support Democratic candidates running for House seats, even if they aren't from your own district.
Indivisible.org - Lots of useful info about how to resist now, and how to put more Democrats in office in November.
Originally published at JonZal.com.