The things Donald Trump will never understand could fill multiple warehouses. He will never understand what is like to worry about feeding his family. He will never understand the fear of being a Black man being pulled over by the police. He will never understand the apprehension a woman feels walking alone to her car at night in a dark parking lot. And he certainly will never understand what it actually means to be President of the United States.
Being president is an honor. It means you have been selected, above all others, to guide the nation through what can be treacherous waters. This is a tremendous responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. And it can be incredibly stressful. Most presidents show the stress as they appear to age decades from the start of their term until the time they leave office. Trump remained the same throughout his term, some say due to carefully applied make-up meant to hide any flaws.
Being president comes with many titles. First, you are the President. You are also Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military. Along with that, you are the leader of your party, be it Democrat or Republican. And finally, you are viewed as the Leader of the Free World, which is an honorary title, but not one to be taken lightly.
A Man of the People?
The fact that Donald Trump never won the popular vote was something that really got under his notoriously thin skin. It was something that only happened four other times in American history, most recently in 2000 with George W. Bush. And Trump not only lost the popular vote, he lost by a greater number than any other US president. So, he never had the support of a majority of Americans that most past presidents enjoyed.
This so galled Trump that he made the false claim that three to five million people voted illegally, thus costing him the popular vote. Of course, he offered no evidence to back up this fabrication. That didn’t stop him from issuing an Executive Order to establish a Voter Fraud commission. The commission was disbanded after no evidence of significant voter fraud was discovered. Yet, it was a claim Trump would return to following his 2020 election loss, spawning the Big Lie.
Commander in Chief
Being Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s military is a tremendous responsibility. Many presidents have anguished over the decision of whether or not to send our troops into harms way. Not so for Donald Trump. When he returned from an overseas trip to Europe, where he observed a military parade commemorating the end of World War I, he immediately demanded a military parade of his own. He ordered the Pentagon and White House officials to begin planning one. This parade wasn’t to be any particular observance or military honors. It was to honor him, the same as dictators do.
Being Commander-in-Chief sometimes requires being Consoler in Chief. Yet, when a soldier was killed in action, Trump callously told his grieving widow, “He knew what he signed up for”.
Trump showed a similar lack of empathy when he visited Puerto Rico, two weeks after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria. He openly mocked their pain and suffering by lobbing paper towels at the assembled crowd. He later delayed sending $20 billion in Congressionally-approved aid to the struggling island after their governor criticized him for his handling of the disaster. Why should he care? Despite being part of the United States, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in presidential elections.
So, being Commander-in-Chief wasn’t something Trump understood. Indeed, he’s been widely mocked for attempting to place his mark on history by creating a new branch of the military: Space Force.
Leader of the Party
Being the leader of the Republican Party is a role Trump relishes. It allows him to bully and intimidate anyone who will not toe the party line. Except, the party line has become anything he wants it to be. Instead of following their Constitutional oaths, Trump demands loyalty to him and him alone.
Typically, in their role as leader of their party, the sitting president is expected to follow the established party platform. While they also set their own agenda by backing “signature items”, such as Obamacare or President Biden’s “Build Back Better” initiative, they are generally expected to follow the will of their party when it comes to things like abortion, voting rights or any of a number of issues that the party regards as vital to their interests.
Trump has obliterated any notion of adopting any agreed upon party platform. Instead , he has been allowed to do as he wants, even if it is contrary to past party positions. If someone from the past were to see today’s Republican Party, they would not even recognize it.
Leader of the Free World
Normally, the President of the United States is seen as the leader of the free world. It is an honorary title meant to represent the defender of the world’s democracies. It’s supposed to counter the influence of dictatorships, which are typically represented by the leaders of Russia or China.
Trump viewed this role as being the same as being the leader of his party. And, he acted in the same manner. He tried bullying, intimidation and even his childish habit of name-calling in an attempt to get other nations to fall in line with his thinking. He assumed they too would bend to his will because…well, everyone else did.
Except, world leaders weren’t having it. They ignored his America First nationalist policies. They chastised him on the world stage and even laughed at him as he attempted to make his case before the United Nations.
Trump’s habit of praising dictators has further distanced his position as Leader of the Free World. Democratic leaders around the world cheered when he lost to Joe Biden, then recoiled in horror as January 6th threatened to destroy the peaceful transfer of power that was the hallmark of American democracy.
On his first visit to Europe, President Biden sought to repair the damage done by four years of Trump’s policies. Europe is decidedly wary as the possibility of Trump regaining power in 2024 hangs over their heads. As a result, America is no longer viewed as the world’s leading democracy and the President of the United States is no longer seen as the Leader of the Free World.
It’s traditional practice that when a president enters a room, everyone stands. It’s a sign of respect. Except, it’s not respect for the person. It’s respect for the Office of the President. Presidents come and go. Every four years we decide if we want to keep the one we have, or give someone else a chance.
Respect for the office is a concept that is impossible for Donald Trump to grasp. Instead, he expects everyone to swear loyalty to him instead of the Constitution they took an oath to defend. Indeed he mocks “being presidential” with robotic motions and a monotone voice.
In another abandonment of presidential norms, ex-presidents typically avoid criticizing their successors. Instead, they often leave glowing letters wishing them success, as President Obama did for Trump. To sabotage the incoming president is not only seen as weakening the country, it’s also the petty action of a sore loser.
That hasn’t stopped Trump from demanding those in his party do everything they can to ensure President Biden will fail. When Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for Biden’s infrastructure plan, something Trump was unable to do, he vowed to get revenge by supporting a primary challenger.
What Donald Trump doesn’t get about being president is that it’s not about the person. It’s about doing what is best for the country.