Mark Kingwell is professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto.
Can we stop pretending now? Can we agree objectively on the character of the man who occupies the presidency of the United States? Because he is, by his own actions and statements, a racist, a misogynist, a narcissist and a fool. He is also an apologist for neo-Nazis, a hater of nations and peoples who do not resemble him and a near-moron in his written and spoken expression.
None of this is news. It isn't gossip. It doesn't have anything to do with best-selling insider books or accounts offered by disaffected former associates. Nor is it "fake news" generated by partisan opponents. At a moment when powerful men are falling like tenpins for their sexual harassment, where one of my university colleagues is disgraced for an inept joke tinged with racial overtones, Mr. Trump stands ascendant, secure in his various perfidies.
How is this possible? There are, it seems to me, three reasons – and none of them are creditable or valid, let alone worth the support of sane people.
The first is arguably the strongest: Like a Wall Street bank, Mr. Trump is now too big to fail. It's not merely that impeachment proceedings or incompetency hearings are long and sometimes inconclusive; it's also the case that many people have deep stakes in the administration, especially actual Wall Street banks set to benefit from his tax plan.
Hence, then, the second cause. Mr. Trump is supported by a group of the most craven, incumbency-shadowing, spine-free creatures the world has ever suffered to host. The tortuous and half-baked responses to Mr. Trump's recent remarks about Haiti and Africa from high-ranking Republicans and their flunkies only highlight the rare examples of those who came forward to denounce such outrageous comments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he of the bulging eyes and quavering jowls, is entirely AWOL, cowering in some mediascape foxhole like a panicked second lieutenant. House Speaker Paul Ryan, playing a cynical political long game, called Mr. Trump's now-notorious, semi-denied "shithole countries" comments "unfortunate" and "unhelpful," judgments that must be rated as uncourageous and unbelievable, plus maybe a few other un- things. Ungallant. Unsatisfactory. Unconscionable. Unacceptable. Unreal.
The background enabling conditions here are worth pausing to consider by themselves. Mr. Trump was always an unlikely Republican and he stole the nomination with a combination of braggadocio and on-the-run populism that has been well-documented. Stories emerge of how remarks about the celebrated Mexican wall were enough to rouse stump-hall crowds into mobs of ravening beasts. His emerging slogans on the campaign trail, of "Lock her up!" and "Throw them out!" were, we must recall, solid cues for middle-aged white men to belittle his Democrat opponent and attack young people of colour.
Washington has allowed a bifurcation of parties which is, all by itself, a hindrance to thought. There have been periods when American politics enjoyed more than two parties, but the current system of "across the aisle" competition is so entrenched that it is hard to recall them – or imagine future alternatives. The resulting "two sides" mentality affects every corner of U.S. political life, including the splits in media and cultural awareness. Nobody has done more damage to American democracy than the people who decided to reify divisions into the "red" and "blue" state maps, now taken for granted in political discourse .
Nobody, that is, except the current holder of the country's highest office, who exploits these divisions for his own bizarre ends of power and prestige.
Of course there are sincere – and deep – disagreements among American citizens. But beyond those who are pledged to hatred and violence, such as the Charlottesville marchers and their ilk, there can be some sort of reasonable dialogue among the people who share a hopeful vision of this great republic, can there not?
And so we come to the third possible reason Mr. Trump remains untouched in power. There are people who agree with him. His crude xenophobic remarks "play well to his base." Let's take this seriously. In the wake of the election, it was possible – indeed necessary – to consider the rational Trump voter: disaffected, disenfranchised, frustrated, looking for a change from politics as usual.
Now the stakes are clear. If you voted for Donald Trump, you voted for an avowed racist and a misogynist. If you continue to support him, when he cares only for himself and says these undeniably hateful things, then you are either an idiotic sucker or a shameful racist. Pick your poison, friends; you're out of options.