What Were You Thinking? (Don’t Pretend You’re Surprised.)

From The Bulwark, by Charlie Sykes:

Pardons, threats, chaos, and coups. Merry Freaking Christmas.

Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are 14 days until January 6, when Congress counts the Electoral College votes, and 28 days until the Inauguration of Joe Biden.

Near the end of the miniseries, Band of Brothers, the guys from Easy Company are shown riding in a convoy of trucks past a bedraggled column of German prisoners, some of whom are riding in carts drawn by horses.

Private David Webster is appalled by the scene and shouts at them:

Hey, you! That’s right, you stupid Kraut bastards! That’s right! Say hello to Ford, and General fuckin’ Motors! You stupid fascist pigs! Look at you! You have horses! What were you thinking? Dragging our asses half way around the world, interrupting our lives… For what, you ignorant, servile scum! What the fuck are we doing here?

I woke up this morning thinking about him.

Admittedly, the parallels are hardly exact, but as I’m looking over the clusterfuck of American conservativism on this almost-Christmas Eve, I feel a kinship with Webster.

What were you thinking? You cowardly, ignorant, servile scum?

It’s not like you were not warned. Again and again.

It’s not as if it wasn’t obvious from the very beginning who Donald Trump was. You had to know it would come to something like this.

Now look at you. You have Trump.

You’ve dragged this country into this place: more than 323,000 dead Americans, a president plotting to steal an election, whispers of military coups, pardons for crooks and war criminals, a potential constitutional crisis, and a possible government shutdown. And, after four interminable years, a nation that is dumber, crueler, and more divided.

For what? What the fuck are we doing here?

Let me repeat this: none of this is new. As far back as August 2015, I wrote that Trump was “a cartoon version of every left-wing media stereotype of the reactionary, nativist, misogynist right.”

Back then there was still time to say no. Some of us desperately made the case that he was a disaster. In May 2016, on the last appearance I will ever make on Fox News, I said:

Donald Trump is a serial liar, a con man who mocks the disabled and women. He’s a narcissist and a bully, a man with no fixed principles who has the vocabulary of an emotionally insecure nine-year-old. So no, I don’t want to give him control of the IRS, the FBI, and the nuclear codes. That’s just me.

But you went along with it. You thought you could ride it out. You thought the tradeoffs were worth it. You thought you could Make America Great with this ignorant, petulant man-child.

One conservative commentator after another torched their reputations, if not their consciences, polishing the orange turds.

The anti-anti-Trumpers sat it out, or spent their time assuring us it wasn’t so bad and that the real threat was radical woke socialists like… Joe Biden. When they weren’t actually concocting elaborate defenses for Trump’s mendacity, they rationalized, or played an endless game of whataboutism.

Back in June, my colleague, Sarah Longwell asked the same question that’s nagging me today:

Did they really think that putting a man bereft of character, decency, and empathy in charge of the country wouldn’t make a difference?

Did they really think that dismissing each instance of his racism, bullying, fecklessness, megalomania, corruption, lies, and stupidity it wouldn’t have a cumulative effect?

From the day he came down the escalator, Trump promised to burn it all down. And now Conservatism Inc. is surprised the country is on fire?

What did they think was going to happen?

So don’t pretend you are really surprised. You may be appalled by what you are seeing, but nothing that is happening now — the reckless attacks on constitutional norms, the flood of lies and conspiracy theories, the bullying, insults, or chaos — is inconsistent in any way with what you have known for years.

But you truckled, wheedled, and hoped he’d eat you last.

And here we are, you miserable bastards.

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