By David R. Schleicher (October 23, 2020)
The President’s unabashed public optimism in the final days before the election was matched in its overwhelming nature only by the soundness of the defeat that in fact arrived. In the end, Donald J. Trump garnered only 37.3% of the popular vote. The Electoral College, though not that lopsided, nonetheless delivered a humiliating defeat. One felt keenly by a man who measured his self-worth by the size of his crowds.
Pundits shall long argue over whether it was the more than 250,000 American deaths from COVID-19 that weighed most heavily on voters’ minds that Election Day. Or had he lost the silent majority on his unending quest for an ever more adulating base? Was he rejected for what even his supporters acknowledged was a personality wholly devoid of empathy, humility, and impulse control? Or had the public been frightened by his embrace of White Nationalism? The list went on. And on. The most likely explanation would prove to be all of the above.
Dark fears that he would never voluntarily leave the White House seemed to be coming to fruition as he filed lawsuit after lawsuit, in state after state, court after court, to challenge the election results. Yet, once the stench of losing began to settle over him, his allies abandoned him in droves. They confirmed his worst suspicions about how shallow their loyalty to him had been. His former disciples among the ruling class showed him almost as little fealty as he would have to them in similar circumstances. The mortally wounded Republican Party put its tail between its legs and ran from him as if from a burning building.
Donald assumed that someone would rise from the deep sea of judicial appointments he had made in the past four years to save him, but none answered the call. It appeared not a single soul dared risk being remembered by history as the final Confederate soldier to fight in a war long ago lost. To add insult to injury, when the litigation reached the Supreme Court, the justices declined to even hear the matter, as if unworthy of their attention. He had lost at the ballot box, now again in the courts, and by all signs he was not taking it well.
The man who had not sweated a drop over being $1 billion in debt was at last ensnared by events beyond his control. Having envisioned himself a Sampson, he watched with panic as his hair began falling out in clumps. Like Sampson, he saw no remaining option but to bring the temple down around him. His first official act of vengeance on the voters was to veto the stimulus package passed by the lame-duck Congress. He was not about to hand Joe Biden an economy on the mend, nor approve the expenditure of tax dollars to fund vaccine distribution to a citizenry who had so soundly rejected him.
The most degenerate of his schemes came to light only years later: a series of classified orders that came to be known as the Nero Decrees. They directed—in great detail—how his appointees were to disable the mechanisms of government on their way out such that even highly motivated and markedly talented successors could not bring them back to life. Everything from the Federal Reserve to the CDC to the National Security Council was to be immobilized, their IT systems destroyed, and all databases deleted.
A number of agencies that fully survived did so only because of appointees whose eagerness to scurry off the sinking ship outweighed their interest in complying with the President’s post-election directives. Other operations were saved solely owing to the incompetence of the minions carrying out the commands, who failed to delete backups or were unaware of which systems had what information in them.
Outside the nation’s capital, the most deplorable of the President’s partisans took his loss as a call for revolution. A Presidential tweet of the QAnon dogwhistle “#WWG1WGA” was taken to signal it was now or never. In two incidents in Tennessee, American Identity Movement followers took over the James H. Quillen U.S. Courthouse (Greeneville) and the Joe L. Evins Federal Building (Oak Ridge). Before law enforcement could retake the buildings, Trump announced pardons for the militants, conditioned on their voluntary departure. They accepted the offer, torching the buildings on the way out, leading the President to confirm the pardons covered that as well.
Given the horrors of disease, economic collapse, and racial strife the country had faced in 2020, the public had breathed a collective sigh of relief when the election results finally were announced on November 6th. But the 75 days between then and the upcoming inauguration seemed to move even more slowly and painfully than had all of the preceding months, as the President made Sherman’s March to the Sea seem a walk in the park. Voters were seeing the man as he truly was—no effort made to hide his inconceivably shallow and vicious nature. It confirmed to voters they had made the right choice, that re-election would have further unleashed his tendencies toward criminal depravity.
As the final nail in the overflowing coffin of norms soon to be put to rest, it came as a surprise to few in mid-January when Trump announced that he was pardoning all those who had ever worked in his administration (excluding those who testified against him) or worked on one of his two campaigns. Manafort and Flynn, among many others, were free at last. For the first time in a presidential pardon, immunity was extended even to a corporate entity (i.e., the Trump Organization).
He explained the breadth of the pardon was needed to protect from persecution those who joined him in fighting for the common man against the elites. A pardon this broad had not been seen since Andrew Johnson’s amnesty for Confederates. It was also a first in that—read as presumably intended—it extended as well to the sitting Vice President.
January 20th, Inauguration Day, could not come soon enough for the country. For the stock market. For the world.
It turned out the events of January 19 would be remembered far longer. For it was on the morning of the 19th that the President’s lifeless body was discovered, in the Lincoln Sitting Room, in the southeast corner of the second floor of the White House. Melania was found in the same room, unconscious but fortunately unharmed, vowing she had no memory of the prior night’s events.
An autopsy, confirmed with swabs of each lung and tissue from the upper airway, identified COVID-19 antibody levels so high that the President’s doctor questioned whether he had been intentionally injected with the pathogen. The doctor ruled out that this might have been self-inflicted, based on the lack of a needle or syringe being found anywhere nearby.
The Secret Service’s review of the President’s prior day showed a schedule so full that certainly he could not have been experiencing serious COVID-19 symptoms at the time. A morning briefing from the Joint Chiefs of Staff about cyberattacks from Iran; a mid-morning update from the Director of the CIA on events in the South China Sea; a lunch meeting with the Russian Ambassador about a multinational oil pipeline; an afternoon strategy session with Ivanka and Jared; a series of documents that had been presented for signature at 4 p.m.; and finally a discussion with Melania and a lead donor about a presidential library. The dance card of suspects was a full one, many of whom seemed to have a motive or means, but none confirmed to have both.
The public announcement was that the president had died of a stroke, notwithstanding his otherwise (per the White House Press Office) “tremendous health and huge acuity mentally speaking.” The only two Special Agents authorized to investigate the death concluded that it was not one President Trump expected. For it turned out there was one important meeting not listed on the schedule—among the President, Vice-President Pence, and Chief Justice Roberts.
Within 15 minutes’ time mid-afternoon on January 18, President Trump had temporarily declared himself incapable of performing his duties, Roberts had administered the presidential oath to Pence, Pence had pardoned Trump, and then Trump had resumed his presidential duties. (This explained why the Chief Justice had been seen leaving the White House bearing the appearance of someone who had just eaten a plate of month-old sushi.) Surely, the investigators postulated, Trump would not have gone to the trouble to obtain a pardon if he had planned to die the very next day.
So ended the 45th presidency of these United States of America.
January 2021 had not yet ended when one of the few remaining Republican members of Congress introduced legislation to rename the District of Columbia after Trump. As dead on arrival as the bill at first seemed to all, it nonetheless came to be signed into law by President Biden, having been combined with a measure from Democratic legislators that granted D.C. the statehood it had so long sought.
When your grandchildren someday exclaim that the “District of Trump” is the most peculiar of the state names, you can explain to them that it was in fact merely but one of a long series of peculiarities in the flabbergasting life and times of the late Donald J. Trump.
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