I’ll be honest with y’all. I really try to resist anger. There’s just too much anger in American politics. In fact, a key theme of my book is that anger and enmity represent their own independent threat to the American republic. But the president’s deception makes me angry.
I’ve spoken to too many people in my neighborhood, church, and community who absorbed the president’s words, heard their favorite figures in the conservative media, and believed them—even to the point where when the president pivoted and began to acknowledge the full dimensions of the crisis, many of those folks believed that the president’s pivot was artificial, a product of Dr. Fauci’s nefarious influence and not a product of undeniable and deadly facts…
American history is replete with examples of presidents preparing Americans for long and painful struggles, and in many ways that kind of preparation was perhaps even more indispensable at the onset of this pandemic than it is when preparing Americans for most military conflicts. After all, “flattening the curve” and limiting the spread of the virus required public acceptance of the threat and massive voluntary compliance with public health guidelines and mandates. There are not enough police in the country to enforce mask mandates (nor would we want police to be so pervasive).
We had to do this together. We had to believe this was real. At a key moment, with hundreds of thousands of lives at stake, the president lied. He made many Americans disbelieve. When critics of the president declared, beginning even in 2015, that “character is destiny,” this is what we meant. When the time would come to tell the hard truths, the president was likely to fail—and fail he did.