Four years ago, the world experienced what had once been unthinkable: Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. Those of us who had believed the U.S. was on the verge of electing its first-ever woman president — rather than a billionaire, former-reality TV show star — were devastated. The fact that Hillary Clinton had received millions of more votes than Trump made it even harder to bear.
When the reality of Trump’s election struck, it was gut-wrenching: Thousands gathered in the streets of New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and other cities, big and small, not only in protest of this undemocratically elected president, but also in an act of collective grief. This wasn’t the sorrow of sore losers — this was the despair of people who were afraid of what a Trump presidency would mean for marginalised communities, for the health and safety of millions around the world, and for the future of the U.S. nation. Republicans greeted this response with a collective demand for Democrats to just suck it up.
For all those reasons, the 2020 election came with a much greater weight — the weight that, if Trump defeated Biden, the U.S. could see another four years of galvanised white supremacists, children separated from their parents at border camps, and the deranged tweets of a pathological liar. There was also the knowledge that Republicans didn’t care about the outrage their policies have incited among liberals and progressives. As newly elected far-right Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn tweeted on Tuesday in celebration of his own victory: Cry more, lib. And Trump, too, has frequently revealed, with the names he calls his opponents and his constant calls for them to be imprisoned, that he cares nothing for the feelings of anyone but himself.
But, almost immediately after Biden’s victory on Saturday morning [afternoon U.K. time], as a mass celebration broke out across the country, Republicans and conservatives began to peddle the message that Democrats should show empathy, and give the president time to “absorb the emotional aspect of his loss before demanding a concession.”
And I’m not sure who needs to hear this but: There’s no reason to feel any empathy for Donald J. Trump.
We’ve spent four years living in a reality where the president has attempted to build a wall around the U.S.-Mexico border, deport children, attack Roe v. Wade, approved oil pipelines that run through Native lands, used his presidential power to investigate his political opponents, withheld funds to citizens amid a devastating pandemic, tried to impose a “Muslim ban,” and, of course, accepted endorsements from neo-Nazi groups.
There is no need to feel sorry for a man who has let almost 275,000 Americans die from a virus that he refused to treat seriously, even though he knew of its gravity long before it came to the country. There’s no need to feel sorry for a man who once said that it was okay to grab women “by the pussy.” But perhaps what is more necessary to state right now is that there is also no reason to feel empathy toward the millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump — in 2016 or in 2020 — either.
Even in 2016, Trump ran on a campaign of toxicity and vitriol. Apart from period-shaming Megyn Kelly during a debate, Trump called Iraq “Harvard for terrorism,” Obama the “founder of ISIS,” and Clinton a “bigot.” But millions of people still voted him into office, despite those inflammatory statements, and then attempted to vote him in again four years later, even as the country is roiled by joblessness, economic crisis, and the ongoing pandemic.
Trump’s presidency will be forever marked by the harm he has done to marginalised communities, to women, and to those who care more about capitalism than human rights. There is no reason to empathise with him for losing a presidency that he never should have had to begin with. Instead, the American people should continue to rejoice, celebrating the moment that they defeated one of the most dangerous men in the history of American politics, and reduced him to exactly what he is: a FOX News-watching grandpa who spends way too much time on Twitter. Sad!