“Four years were kind of unpleasant,” said Gwendolyn Milner, 68, of Fayetteville, Ga., “because we felt we had to defend him but nobody would stop to listen.” It is important to remain engaged, she said, even though she already feels cynical and beaten down.
Others spoke tiredly of trying to defend Mr. Trump’s policies to friends and family only to be hamstrung, inevitably, by some presidential tweet about a potential purchase of Greenland or a diatribe about wind turbines.
“You could never get past that because he kept doing it,” said Ray Abplanalp, 61, of western Pennsylvania, who failed to persuade his brother of the president’s merits.
For still others, even some who had long been champions of the president, the feverish conspiring since November’s election had finally gotten to be too much.
“I cannot wait for this to end tomorrow, to be quite honest with you,” said Carlos Ortiz, the pastor of an evangelical church in Miami, who voted for the president twice. He had no regrets about those votes, he said, welcoming all that the president had done for his evangelical supporters. But after the last two months, and especially after the attack on the Capitol, he is done. “Every single day it was a completely new thing: ‘They stole the election, blah blah blah,’” Mr. Ortiz said. “It mounts, one thing on top of the other. We cannot deal with this anymore.”
For those who have been protesting in the streets, the relentless conflict of the past four years has not been a negative at all but the return of an urgency long sought. There is hope, they say, in the new wave of activism, from the massive Black Lives Matter demonstrations to a series of work stoppages that involved more people than at any time in decades. The Trump era revealed problems that ran deep in the country’s history, some said, and there was no going back to the false comfort of the status quo.
“It’s exhausting, it is probably gut-wrenching, but I would say the same feeling that you felt or are feeling is how Black men have felt and have to live with every single day,” said Ayo Akinmoladun, 29, who led antiracism protests in Memphis over the summer. “This has been our reality.”