Traumatized by the 2016 election of Donald Trump, millions of Americans spent the past four years in a state of disbelief and horror, discrediting, demonizing, dissecting, psychoanalyzing, politicizing, and harshly criticizing the president. Putting children in cages, prescribing bleach as a deterrent for COVID, using a marker pen to distort the truth and engaging in unbridled corruption (including being impeached), “The Trump Show” has been critiqued as “reality TV at its worst,” a source of persisting fear and anxiety in our country, and “a serious danger to our democracy.” With millions of us waiting and wondering, “What’s he going to do next?” Donald Trump has now been told, “You’re fired!” by a record-setting 80 million voters.
Another record-setting 73 million Americans, some who worship the president, opted for “four more years. Despite hard evidence and indisputable facts that he lost the election, the outgoing POTUS has encouraged his followers to join him in mounting legal challenges and conspiratorial PR attacks contesting the results.
Trumps refusal to concede the election has put the pillars of true democracy, fair elections and the peaceful transition of power, into series question. The courts, states and a large majority of Americans have upheld the integrity of the election. The delay in transferring power, however, is presenting a serious danger to our national security, the continuity of our COVID response and integrity of our republic.
Like most Americans, I’ve been thinking a lot about the president’s unwillingness to transfer power. With so much hanging in the balance, I question his psychological fitness to serve as a guiding force for our democracy and protect everything that is good about this country for my grandkids.
I am deeply concerned about what might happen in the weeks to come with our president, Giuliani, Secretary Pompeo, AG Barr, QAnon, GSA Administrator, Emily Murphy, and a host of Republicans doing everything in the power to stall or reverse the results of the election. “How might what’s happening,” I wondered, “devolve into violence, chaos and a constitutional crisis?”
After my cousin joked, “I’m still trying to figure out how we’re going to celebrate the Thanksgiving on a Zoom call.” I wondered, “Could this be a good time to give the president credit for what he has done to Make America Great in hopes of moving things forward? Might this gesture help us avert a disaster?” Whether or not we’re attracted to, or repelled by, our current president, might it be in the best interests of our country to acknowledge what he’s accomplished (or attempted to accomplish)?
Having worked with top leaders in business and government, their management teams and their families for the past 45 years as an Executive Coach and Consultant, I’ve seen how a robust “atta boy” can afford a leader in business or government enough of an ego boost to feel like they had won the day. Could a declaration of his contributions help Donald Trump summon the psychological strength to leave the White House and write new chapters of life?” Having also witnessed family members and followers begin to open their eyes, break free of “the spell,” and see the reality of their situation, might it also help Ivanka, Jarrad and Melanie concede, “The election is over, let’s move on!”
Entertaining the possibility of crediting Donald Trump as a means of getting him to transfer power is probably a pipe dream. Having worked with full-blown narcissists over the past 45 years, I know that denial and retribution are their defenses against deep-seeded feelings of failure and inadequacy. Singer-songwriter David Wilcox’s sober reminder that some of us have a “crack in the cup that holds love,” brings me back to reality that a complement is never enough. And some people’s capacity for empathy and realizing what’s in the public interest is severely impaired.
Coddling a leader who is becoming a danger to his country by refusing to concede a loss is one thing. Discrediting the integrity of his nation’s electoral process with no evidence is another. The playbook for handling bullies with irreparable narcissistic wounds shows us how tough love, direct confrontation, an intervention and/or messaging from the people around him is in his and their best interests. Giving someone a complement will not prevent them from throwing the people around them under the bus and leaving them in a state of utter chaos.
Things are going to get uglier before they get better. Donald Trump will not go quietly. He will make every effort to stay in public view and draw the adoration of his followers. Sooner or later, however, he will run out of time and money and have to leave the White House. He will also be stripped of his power. He will react in the same manner he’s handled all of his failures, with excuses, lies, blame, half-baked conspiracy theories, vengeance, and narcissistic defiance. Die-hard family members, followers and fellow Republicans who have no place else to go, will undoubtedly search for an out to justifying their continued support, enabling, misplaced loyalty and cowardice – and for putting their personal, political and financial interests above our nations.
It is time for Americans from both parties choose country above party. We’re headed for unimaginable turmoil and disaster if we do nothing to protect our democracy. Those who believe in the common good will need to draw a line in the sand and help conclude Trump’s presidency. Crediting him for his administration’s accomplishments and offering him a robust “Thank you” as we say “Good-bye” may elicit a damning response from those who discredit his behavior and legacy. A parting declaration of Trumps “greatest hits,” citing “a strong economy, rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine, securing our borders, negotiating better deals, removing regulations and bridging differences with adversaries” may inspire a call for the moving trucks.
The Trump presidency will be noted as a turning point in American history. While his fans and followers will remain loyal, his critics will note this as a time of resurgent white nationalism, racism, xenophobia and rampant corruption. Both sides will accuse one another as having “drank the Kool Aid” and learn to avoid talking about politics at family gatherings and Zoom calls. Trump critics will say his greatest accomplishment was the awakening of a sleeping giant—the 78 million Americans who turned out to vote him out of office in 2020—and who reaffirmed the importance of honesty, integrity, competence, compassion, justice, equality and decency in our leaders. Worst of all, Trump will be blamed for the lasting damage he did to our country by refusing to accept the results of the 2020 election and undermining the peaceful transfer of power.
Let’s stand strong in defense of our democracy. Should there be a chance to thank our outgoing president and allow him to depart with some degree of dignity, let’s do so. Ending his obstruction will afford our incoming president and his administration every opportunity to succeed, prevent further erosion of our democracy and save American lives. Facing the challenges of the day would be a monumental task for any world leader. Let’s give Joe Biden, his team and our beloved constitutional democracy a fighting chance.
We have our work cut out for us, getting through the pandemic, fixing healthcare and our economy, repairing our climate, rising above racism, strengthening education, securing our standing among nations, and healing the great divide in America. Putting the well-being of our nation first will help us become the more courageous, humbler version of ourselves, heal and move on. The path to a better day for America awaits.