One day I came home from the gym, realized there was something major happening in the world, and turned on the television. That day, as I sat there in my yoga pants and sneakers, everything about my role as an American citizen changed.
It was July 16, 2018 and the Russia-United States summit was happening in Helsinki. Shortly after I sat down, Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press asked President Trump this question about Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election, something our intelligence agencies had determined with certainty:
Would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016, and would you warn him to never do it again?
This was Trump’s response:
All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, and they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be. I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
I sat completely stunned. I still get a chill when I think about it because it was the day I realized the President of the United States is not in our corner.
Right now, four days after the Mueller Report was delivered to the Department of Justice, that’s what I’m thinking about. I don’t know what’s in the Mueller Report aside from what a Trump appointee has opted to share, so I’m not going to speculate. I’m not an attorney. I’m not about to crack open a law book and try to parse any of it. The best I can do is listen to people who are experts in this and consider their analysis.
What I do know is that since July 16, 2018, I have realized in a much deeper way that one third of this country wants so badly to believe this guy is their champion that not even his alignment with a dictator at odds with our own intelligence people would sway them. Read that again and digest it. They are that entrenched, infatuated, on board.
Why is this significant?
Because before the Helsinki moment I thought the day that changed everything was election day, 2016. Back then, my legitimate concerns about Donald Trump were hardly tied to his political party (he’s a chameleon in this regard anyway), but to his clear sexism, racism, homophobia and classism. I knew he would govern only the people he deemed loyal and would dismiss the rest as he had done for years when conducting business.
I had no idea we were dealing with a man who would not side with America on the global stage. While I knew Make America Great Again meant something different to him and his followers than it did (and does) to me, I thought we’d get some brand of souped up patriotism. You know, flag waving for the sake of show.
For the last few decades, Republicans have endeavored to claim the patriotism mantle. I thought it was about proud displays like bumper stickers and t-shirts. But how does that square with your President confiscating translator notes from a summit with Putin? On the patriotism scale, is that better or worse than hanging your flag on Memorial Day? Or making a red, white and blue Jell-O mold for the Fourth of July?
Yay, you. No need to trouble yourself with your President’s weird penchant for writing love letters to another dictator whose beaches he proclaimed a great spot for hotels. Your flag is flapping in the wind. So pretty, those stars and stripes.
So call me crazy, but I don’t need any validation from Robert Mueller that our President is not a patriot. He has shown again and again that he isn’t. He claims to be exonerated, a blatant lie, but about a third of the country is nodding along and that’s all he needs to keep the false narrative going.
With their own eyes they watched him disown them while standing on a stage in Helsinki. We know without question they will never stop nodding.