I’ve strayed from the blog trail in the previous few months. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to write about. Then again maybe it is. I mean, how many times do we have to remind people— or at least ones willing to accept what we see playing out in front of us— that Donald Trump is, among other things, a pathological liar and a treasonous narcissist intent on invalidating American democracy.

Now we find the former president hawking his “God Bless the USA Bible” because we must “make America pray again,” presumably to help pay his legal bills for, among other trespasses, bribing a prostitute for her silence. Among the Ten Commandments, this is taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is more evidence of the hypocrisy of a man who has on several occasions shown little or no knowledge of the content of the Bible, casually dismissing the power of prayer in his life and laughing off the notion that he would ever have to ask for forgiveness for any transgressions in his life. We remember how he held up the Bible as a photo op while, all around him, nonviolent protestors were being callously disbursed by members of the National Guard. Hawking the Bible as a campaign token like a T-shirt or a MAGA hat is seen by some as sacrilege and the desecration of Christianity’s most holy text.

I started this blog about the topic mentioned in the next paragraph, but it’s just another example of Trump continuing to expose his true nature day after day, with virtually no pushback from his supporters. If anything, his gaffe-ridden diatribes only cement their allegiance to him.

I’d much prefer to write about other topics than politics and the looming shadow of Trump that won’t go away. I much prefer looking at life and what is going on around me with humor and a sense that we’re all in this world together. That has not often been the case in addressing politics nowadays, because that has become the great divider in the 21st Century, creeping in with the polarity of views on both the left and the right and an unwillingness on both sides to sit down and talk with each other.

I have come to conclude that many among us are no longer interested in choosing presidents with integrity.

I suppose it is because we don’t listen to contrary opinions anymore. We go to the chatrooms, websites and news networks that look at the world the way we do. As our politics have become increasingly extreme, so have our opinions about all those newsmakers vying for our attention and support. Take Taylor Swift, who, whatever your opinion of her, has been glorified on one side and demonized on the other. In a way, it’s the American way to go overboard with our likes and dislikes with virtually no middle ground. I think it is safe to say that she is hated by millions of people who know little about her, other than the excess publicity manufactured by the media because she is dating, possibly in love with, a football hero. On the other hand, she, at present, is the most popular entertainer we’ve seen since Elvis and the Beatles. I’ve come to admire her because of the character she has shown in previous months as she has weathered this love-hate confliction of emotions directed toward her.

As Swift herself stated in song long before the Super Bowl hype that “the haters gonna hate” so all you can do is “shake it off.”

Her support for Joe Biden in 2020 unleashed an avalanche of haters and some crazy conspiracy theories that had her trying to alter the course of the 2024 Presidential Election by convincing her dedicated fans to vote for Biden. It even went as far as alleging there was a conspiracy afoot between Swift and Biden for her and Travis Kelce to announce they were getting married during or immediately after the Super Bowl. This, as the theory unfolded, would somehow unite football fans and Swifties into a huge voting bloc that would, once again, unfairly lead to another election loss for Trump.

That never happened, of course, and now the conspiracists can claim that their warning nipped this Biden-backed plot in the bud. That’s the other maxim in conspiracies fed by extremism. You’re always right even when you turn out to be wrong.

That brings us back to the mischaracterization of character. Just a few days ago, there was one of those obsessive news reports about polls and why people prefer Trump over Biden or vice-versa. And I kid you not that one Trump supporter, when asked on camera what “one word” best described why he was convinced that Trump was the better person and, therefore, most deserving to be president, chose the following: “honesty.”

Politics as Usual or Trump’s Vengeance Tour?

Even avid Trump supporters would never choose that word. Honesty, the last I’ve heard, includes telling the truth and possessing a quality known as integrity and adherence to a strict moral and ethical code. Conversely, you can be honest and still be a bad person, because, in a way, Trump is honest in his own way in telling us he will be a dictator wreaking vengeance on all who have crossed him since he roused his minions to tear down the institutions of democracy on January 6, 2021. The last time we experienced such a malicious assault on our democracy was when the Southern Confederacy rose up to overthrow and bear arms against the government of the United States.

Of course, conservative Republicans see such observations as melodramatic. “It’s just politics and Trump is the first person giving me a reason to vote,” one Trump supporter told me back in 2020. Politics has become just another reality show with an entire nation in the cast. This show includes both of our major political parties and a combative news media more intent on pleasing its niche audience than stating the facts in the tradition of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, both regarded as people of character whom we could trust.

Character is a combination of moral strength and integrity sustained by reputation. For starters, it means that words should be backed by action or attempted action when opponents go all out to keep you from succeeding. Unfortunately, such examples of character are often belatedly recognized when we look back at what could have been.

George Washington exuded integrity and as the first President, he was so revered that he could have easily established a dictatorship, because there weren’t any limits on how long a U.S. President could stay in office until the Twenty-second Amendment was ratified in 1951. One of the most cited examples of Washington’s character was that he chose to step down after two four-year terms, setting a precedent kept until Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected to a third term in the midst of a world war.

Integrity is far from a guarantee of success in presidential politics. Sen. John McCain was often lauded for his integrity. Unfortunately, as a Republican presidential candidate in 2008, he chose Sarah Palin, the Margaret Taylor Greene of her time, as his running mate, to woo conservatives. It apparently confused voters who opted for the tandem of Obama-Biden. Then there was Jimmy Carter, who exuded honesty and integrity, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the wit and humor of Ronald Reagan, with a lot of help from the Iran hostage crisis.

Conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, have valued integrity in their presidential candidates over the years, but the fall from grace for American democracy came in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump. It was abetted by a huge helping hand from evangelicals and other Christian conservatives. I might note that in both victory and loss, Trump has never been supported by the majority of the popular vote, which provides some consolation for those of us concerned that we are on the threshold of fascism and “the violent suppression of opposition” which defines it.