When Donald Trump kicked off his presidential bid in 2015, he rode down a golden escalator in Trump Tower, using the media attention to promote his own brand and property. He lied. He made racist comments. And he exaggerated the crowd size.
In other words, he showed exactly the type of president he would become.
The rest of his campaign was no different. He continued to stoke racial tensions, bully and demean.
Unable to believe that he could truly be as bad as he presented himself, some Democrats thought maybe Trump would change once in office. Maybe there would be a way to work with him. Chuck Schumer, a top Democrat, said there were areas where Trump “voiced very progressive and populist opinions,” and perhaps those would be areas of cooperation.
“I don’t think it makes sense to say, ’No, we’re not gonna work in any way in any form with the Trump administration,’” senator Bernie Sanders said at the time.
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The late civil rights icon representative John Lewis was one of the few Democratic members willing to call Trump out and speak forcefully against him. Even before Trump’s inauguration, Lewis said he was not a “legitimate” president. Some Democrats supported Lewis, but plenty distanced themselves from him and said he had gone too far.
Meanwhile, top Republican leaders, when asked about Trump’s rampant dishonesty during the course of the campaign, offered assurances that a Trump presidency would be different. They said the burdens of the Oval Office would weigh on him, and he’d have a competent team of aides. The Trump White House, they said, would function like most others.
“I think many Republicans who held their nose and voted for Trump in 2016 thought he would at least be surrounded by seasoned staffers and career Republicans who would provide the policy road map for the administration,” said Jennifer Pierotti Lim, the co-founder of...