Most mornings I wake up, early, and I punch on NPR (which, by the way, I’ve kind of stopped listening to beyond getting the morning’s headlines; their jellied, timorous neutrality in the face of what is going on in this country will not wear well in the eyes of history). And sometimes, still, when I hear Lakshmi Singh or one of them say, “President Trump today…” I have this out-of-body experience, and I am transported back to my New York days in the early 1990s, when with a different roll of the dice The Donald could have ended up not just in bankruptcy but in jail, and I think to myself:
President who? What Trump?
But there he is. The president of the United Fucking States of America. By now, we’re used to it, I guess. But the insanity of it hits you in unpredictable places. Some time in spring of 2017, I took my daughter to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The one with the big mammoth and the blue whale and all those taxidermied mammalia.
We went to the gift shop. They have a great kids’ section, and with a 6-year-old, as she was then, you know going in you’re likely to drop some pretty serious cabbage. So we looked around. And the corner of my eye caught a book, for kids, one of those books on the presidents with all their pictures on the cover, that make kids go, “Martin Van Buren? Those sideburns… what’s up with those, dude?”
And it struck me then: Trump’s face will be on such books, books for children, children like the Boy Scouts he got to boo Obama, for all time. And there is nothing we can do about it. No way to erase it. Placemats. Know what I mean, those kids’ placemats of the presidents? Donald J. Trump. As long as the United States exists and kids still need placemats.
I will confess—and conservatives will make fun of this, but let them, it’s the way it is—that one of the main reasons I wanted Hillary Clinton to win, one of the main emotional reasons I should say, was so that my daughter would spend the first eight or hopefully 12 years of her life seeing that the presidents of the United States were a black guy and a woman. And she would have met the woman, though that’s really neither here nor there. I just wanted her to see that presidents could look… like her. They don’t now.
Is there going to be a Donald J. Trump Presidential Library? I guess so. But where? Manhattan? Man, will that be a fight. I want a front-row seat at that community board meeting! Queens? Maybe. But here’s my bet. He’ll put it in West Virginia. Not Morgantown. God forbid.
But yes: All those dignified accoutrements of the presidency will inevitably belaurel Donald Trump. A library. A museum. Schools named after him. Can you imagine? The Donald J. Trump Magnet School? If he’s alive, he’ll joke that it should be called the Donald J. Trump Chick Magnet School.
Of course, I just joked that.
Oh, Lord. How did this happen? That’s what I still wake up wondering, more days than I’d prefer to admit. I mean, I know. I wrote about it in real time, and watched it, although like everybody else I missed it. I remember that in what was probably my first column about him after he announced his candidacy, I wrote that he’d fade around World Series time. Shows what I knew.
His admirers would say I underestimated him. And yeah, I suppose that’s true. But the more important point is this. It’s not that I underestimated Trump. It’s that I overestimated the Republican electorate.
I thought there was just no way that they would decide that that man belonged in the Oval Office. How could anybody think that? Governor of New York? Well, that’s nuts too, actually, but that I could have imagined 25 years ago. Rich guys can buy shit. That’s how it works.
But president? How did 63 million people vote for that man for president?
Despise Hillary Clinton: 20 million.
Care about nothing except overturning Roe v. Wade: 20 million.
Actually think Trump is going to bring back manufacturing and coal: 7 million.
Loathe people who aren’t white: 6 million.
That leaves 10 million I can’t explain. It was, and still is, stunning that all these people would take a flyer on the presidency of the United States.
Big news of the last 10 years? You bet. The biggest. I have to give him that. If he reads this, which of course he won’t, he’d say: Fine, Tomasky, whatever. I’m a winner, and you’re a loser. And yes, fair enough.
But something tells me the news isn’t over. For 40 years, reality and fate have never quite caught up with him. But in the White House, as the one man who laid his hand on a Bible and swore he’d uphold the law, the law has a way of catching up.
I’d wager that the biggest Trump news hasn’t broken yet.