Steve and Tom offer a retrospective on the past four years.
On this, the final full day of the Trump presidency, we thought about doing some mega-summary of these four years with grand thoughts of what it all meant. But, frankly, we could not bring ourselves to immerse ourselves anew in all the mire.
So we came up with what we think is a better idea. We decided to republish each of our five favorite pieces (plus two pieces from guests) from the Trump era with the goal of providing our “real time” observations on an astonishing and often horrifying era in our nation’s history. This “as it was” view makes for some interesting reading given the perspective of what we now know. We hope you enjoy this approach and have a re-read of some of them.
From Steve: My first instinct was to pick my favorite headlines, like “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?,” “When You Wish Upon a Tsar,” “Biden Go Seek,” “Welcome to Syco-Fantasy Island,” “The Golden Goebbels Awards,” “Here Comes My COVID-19th Nervous Breakdown,” and “The Reign of Stain is Plain in Ukraine.” On reflection, however, I decided to choose the ones that seemed to touch on the most important events and themes of the past four years.
1. The depravity of Donald Trump is on hideous display in his racism, and in the manner in which he has embraced white supremacists in order to lock down a ferociously loyal political constituency. Trump’s actions and political calculations based on race – later on full view in his treatment of BLM protestors -- was discussed in the aftermath of Charlottesville:
“Charlottesville’s Web: We Finally See #RealDonaldTrump” (8/17/17)
2. Early in the Trump administration, I wrote about the shooting spree in Las Vegas that resulted in 60 deaths and 411 injuries, predicting that for all the shock and revulsion at the mass-murder, absolutely nothing would be done about it.
“BTRTN: What Happened in Vegas Will Stay in Vegas” (10/4/17)
3. Trump’s foolhardy reaction to the outbreak of the pandemic and his abdication of responsibility for dealing it exacerbated the toll by hundreds of thousands of lives. I likened Trump’s approach to the pandemic to the war in Vietnam… which, of course, Trump also ducked.
“BTRTN: Donald Trump is Finally in Vietnam” (4/5/20)
4. Democrats are appallingly bad at talking about the economy, utterly failing to point out that as a matter of historical record going back a century, Democrats do a better job managing the economy than Republicans. I enjoyed setting the record straight:
“BTRTN: Bigfoot, Unicorns, and Superior Republican Stewardship of the Economy” (5/10/20)
5. In my view, the most despicable of Donald Trump’s desecrations, delusions, and derelictions has been the deceit, propaganda, and symbiotic relationship with right-wing media that has ruptured America’s common understanding of reality itself.
“BTRTN: What Do We Do When What Divides Us Is Actually Bigger Than What Unites Us?” (6/9/20)
From Tom: Among the several hundred pieces I have written over these four years are 48 BTRTN “Month in Reviews.” Many of those months (and it seemed like all of them), I concluded, were “Trump’s worst month ever.” But I was wrong each and every time. Trump’s worst month was his 49th, and last month, this one, January, 2021, and I will write about it in 13 days. But I decided not to subject you again to that endless diaspora of awful months. Instead, I chose five pieces that represent the “beginning” of something – be it the Trump presidency, the Democratic campaigns or the onset of COVID-19. Each offers a look ahead at what might happen – not exactly predictions, but some sense of where each might lead. Enjoy!
6. I was asked this question a shocking number of times in the first few weeks of the Trump presidency. Modesty does not prevent me from drawing your attention to the section on impeachment.
“BTRTN: The Odds of Trump Not Lasting Four Years” (2/22/17)
7. This one looked at the entire potential Democratic presidential field, all 55 of them, with a pithy assessment of their candidacies. It was written after the 2018 midterm elections, before anyone had announced their intentions (except for John Delaney).
“BTRTN: 55 Ways the Dems Might Go in 2020: The Exhaustive List of Potential Nominees” (11/29/18)
8. As the 55 winnowed down to those who actually threw their hat in the ring, Steve and Tom did a classic “point/counterpoint” on who we favored for the nomination. And history might well show that we each supported a future President.
“BTRTN: Who Are We Supporting for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination?” (11/10/19)
9. You will recall the Biden campaign got off to a dismal start, with well-down-the-list finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, and also lost Nevada to Bernie Sanders by a whopping margin. That set up South Carolina, and my preview gave a look at what might happen there and beyond to Super Tuesday.
“BTRTN South Carolina Preview: Can a Funny Thing Happen on the Way to Bernie’s Coronation?” (2/28/20)
10. I put politics aside as the coronavirus started its early grisly progression. At the time I wrote this article, there were just over 2,000 cases in the United States (we have over 22 million now) and 49 people had died. I took a look at what the likely escalation might mean and how we should have been responding to the pandemic.
“BTRTN: Why the Coronavirus Numbers Scare Me” (3/14/20)
We’ve also had a number a guest authors on the site over the past four years, and as a bonus, we add these two pieces from two of them to our Trump Era retrospective:
11. Tom’s wife Wendy is an occasional contributor to BTRTN, when the spirit moves her. This piece from last summer, when she became a contact tracer for New York State, was one of our most widely read of the year.
“BTRTN: I Am a Contact Tracer” (7/12/20)
12. Williams College history professor Charles B, Dew teaches a course on the history of the South. This moving piece was written a few months before the killing of George Floyd reanimated the Black Lives Matter movement.
Having now picked the articles that were our favorites of the Trump years, let us now say what actually is our favorite thing about BTRTN: our wonderful readers. We cannot tell you how gratifying it is when you write comments to us, share our work, and even when the sharp-eyed proofreaders among you are moved to point out embarrassing typos.
We are ever grateful for your encouragement, support, and now we turn our eyes forward to what will most certainly be a challenging period in American history, but one that will be guided by leaders with knowledge, courage, integrity, and a very, very firm grip on reality. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris got elected thanks in part to the hard work of many of you. Let’s continue to do that work in order to help them succeed. As John F. Kennedy said sixty years ago tomorrow:
“With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”