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Actually, the Orange Man Is Bad

And that's kind of the point.
May 8, 2020
Actually, the Orange Man Is Bad
(Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

This week America tallied the 75,000th official death from COVID-19—the real number won’t be known until after the crisis has passed and will be much higher.

Last week the 30 millionth unemployment claim was submitted.

Amidst this death and destruction the president of the United States has been spending his days pecking around on his iPhone, tweeting that certain cable TV hosts are murderers and dogs and that the husband of his top strategist is a “moonface” loser. Oh, and he claimed—again—that the opposition party and the American media are “The Enemy of the People!”

It is impossible to imagine a circumstance in which such behavior would be viewed as acceptable in normal life. Imagine sitting at a funeral service and seeing somebody standing a short distance away yelling and caterwauling about how the mourners or the priest were “dogs” and “The Enemy of the People!”

Would you think that man was in full control of his faculties?

Or what if you’re working over at Initech and your friend Don from accounting started shitposting on social media about one of your company’s competitors, Intertrode?

Would this strike you as professional behavior for an adult in the workplace?

Hell: What if the principal at your kid’s school started ranting and raving publicly about parents he didn’t like.

Would the PTA shrug? Or would they ride his ass out on a rail?

We sit at the most consequential moment in a generation and it is now clear that it is not the case that President Trump doesn’t want to change his behavior. It’s that he is congenitally incapable to moderate it even for a single day.

The malignant self-obsession and childish vitriol only scratches the surface of the man’s flaws. His compulsions aren’t hidden or covered up. They are broadcast for the entire country to see, for hours on end, every day, late into the night.

Here is where the final corruption takes place. Trump’s behavior is so far outside the realm of acceptable that even his supporters have been forced to concede it.

And so, because they are unwilling to abandon Trump, they have chosen to embrace his vile abnormality and wear it as a badge of honor, turning it into a rallying cry to attack anyone who is bothered by the behavior.

“Orange Man Bad,” they say.

As if, by taking ownership of this fact, it somehow invalidates it.

To these Trump supporters, and cos-play non-supporters, it is only the simpleminded folk who cling to the superstitious belief that a bad man having the most important job in the world is a serious concern. Those of us who are bothered by the insane ravings of a narcissistic imbecile aren’t able to see the big picture.

The view of these sophisticates is that yes this man is bad, but also maybe having him in charge can be . . . not bad. Maybe even good. For as bad as President Orange Man is, there are more pressing matters that serious people must consider.

For instance: What if a daytime CNN anchor uses hyperbole?

Or a Washington Post columnist publishes a tweet that contradicts a tweet she tweeted three years ago?

What if, somewhere in the universe, there is a liberal who needs to be owned?

Are Republicans and conservatives—and even conscientious non-Trump supporters—supposed to obsess over every little thing the leader of the free world says and does and ignore the bigger game that’s afoot?

Just because 2,000 Americans are dying from a pandemic every day?

Get real, bro.

This conceit is endlessly fascinating to me. It’s the old debate trick of performatively conceding the lesser point in order to win the broader point—but in reverse. Trump’s people concede the most significant matter just so that they can argue the ephemera.

So they employ the MAGAfied “Orange Man Bad” retort on social media as a way of stepping over his badness to address something else, rather than engage with it.

The Orange Man Bad practitioners would argue that they are simply trying to expose the shallowness of Trump’s opposition, the weakness of their argumentation.

And while the phenomena of #resistance members opposing a policy that they might otherwise support were it not for the Bad Orange Man being behind it has certainly been known to exist, as a political matter, conceding that the president is bad is not the strongest turf for pointing out your foe’s weak argumentation.

So yes, trolls, it is true that my anti-Trump arguments are occasionally influenced by the fact that the president is one of the worst humans I have ever had the displeasure of encountering in my life. I do not look at every issue in the imaginary vacuum where this is not the case. You got me.

Last week Ben Shapiro, someone who has made his mark as a skilled debater, tweeted asking “What’s [Biden’s] case for being president, other than Orange Man Bad?”

And while I could come up with a substantive argument for Biden on the merits, it led me to wonder: Doesn’t the question actually answer itself?

The badness is enough. The badness is so bad that it’s all that really matters in our politics right now.

Trump supporters themselves have acknowledged with great specificity the badness. A Clinical Psychological Science study showed that even Trump’s fans thought he was more sadistic and narcissistic than 90 percent of people.

Trump surrogates have said he’s a “pathological liar” who “doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies,” a “narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen” and is of course, “utterly a moron.”

Oh wait that was just Constitutional Conservative Ted Cruz—on a single day.

We could spend hours listing every other description of Donald Trump’s manifest character flaws uttered by his current supporters over the years. But there’s not much point.

Because the plain fact is that Donald Trump is not just a bad man. He is an avatar for iniquity and immorality and selfishness. He runs the table on the seven deadly sins and demonstrates not a trace of any of the four cardinal virtues. He possesses not a single character trait that you would want your child to fully emulate. He cares about nothing and no one besides himself.

The country is suffering from his badness. And he is utterly aloof to their suffering.

So I write this simply to let those who are unwilling to stand up to him for whatever reason know that on this one matter we wholeheartedly concur:

The Orange Man is bad indeed.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.