Like the classic storytelling formula, even a toxic plague has a beginning, middle, and end. In Trump’s case, the sequence of the collective fever is well demarcated, from an elevator descent and racist rant, to a parched-earth campaign and presidency, and post-defeat from failed, victimized president to failed victimized figurehead. Behold America’s isolated Liar-in-chief. But for how long can a one-trip pony lean on the same absurd meme? For how long can this billionaire blowhard get away with fabricating invisible, unproven enemies that steal elections and execute nationwide “witch-hunts”?
In short, whatever his master hustling, Trump is a lousy plot-maker, taken down by immigrant hordes (except when his hired hands), or devious (play-it-safe) Democrats or GOP dissidents having nothing better to do than smear the sad sack loser. Comebacks, whether by politicians or parties, need a second act and the party of Trump is locked into a one-note whine.
Thus, failed messaging and bad politics explain this Wash Post provocation, “Republicans want mini-Trumps in 2022? Democrats would be delighted.” America may love comebacks but only when the fallen concede, admit errors, and/or reform – posing as active champions, commanding their own destiny, not as impotent, complaining victim. Who since the 19th C won, then lost, then regained the presidency? None. What unretired hopeful attacks a slew of turncoat Republicans, from ex-governors and senator Romney, to Pence, then McConnell, McCarthy, Liz Cheney, and for good measure ex-speaker Paul Ryan? Gosh, all Ryan said was that Republicans must transcend “fealty” to a “horrifying” regime that came “to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end.”
Clearly, the runt of underdogs, Trump will never concede, never apologize, and never learn. Mimicking Sarah Palin’s cornered extremism (“Never retreat, just reload”), Trump leads his troops to ever-permanent minority status. Wreckage is the Trump legacy, and, like Palin, Trump will embrace every sleazy fundraiser and desperate venue to ward off oblivion. By this reading, Trump’s future has no more solidity than his thinnest golden veneers.
So, what explains the Donald’s dive from dominant scammer to dead-ender? How about the obvious storyline by which the Trump fever lurched from incubation to generation, only to burn itself out with coronavirus negligence and stuttering economic stagnation, then with a tragic default to anti-governance. These debacles set the stage for an appalling re-election campaign – capped by the dumbest, least plausible lie: “Only a stolen election defeats me.” So much for majority rule, let alone respectable administrators reliably tabulating voter decisions.
1) Since November, zero good news has descended on Trump and a party now populated either with lackeys or traitors. If losing the White House and inspiring a violent insurrection didn’t do it, a serene, presidential Biden and losing the Senate sealed Trump’s future, with or without more lying. That McConnell and McCarthy openly criticized Trump, along with Romney, Cheney and anti-Trumpers, pinpointed the problem child. Still looming are indictments from New York and Georgia, the latter offering the best shot for a riveting trial, conviction, and sentencing. Good news is rarer today than Trump truth-telling.
2) All polling, and this unrelenting circular party firing squad, make Trump a long-shot national candidate. Descending approval numbers track his absent political agenda. Trump epitomizes the Party of No – no to pandemic, no to the lawful election result, no to angry critics, and no to genuine opposition to the Biden presidency. Is Trump “for” anything but vanity? Not even provocative sound bites or entertaining put-downs surface. Where is he stronger now than in October? Holding all evangelicals, racists, gun fanatics and aggrieved white whiners won’t redeem the state-by-state color map. Trumpers not only lack comeback levers, but evidence they know how to work the dials.
3) Trump’s Party of No thrives only when liberalism fails – hardly the case as government-pandemic solutions succeed, not one overseas hot spot threatens, and climate, infrastructure, and job training make emergency calls on government. Denialism is dead. What conceivable majority wants a return to Trump economics (bad tariffs, nixing trade agreements, and tax giveaways to the rich), mortifyingly horrid appointments, and tin-ear messaging on voting and climate? Bad timing plus bad messaging and bad leadership = minority status – and no obvious way up.
4) What adviser, rational Trumper, or party fat cats think that a party branded as undemocratic, against elections and prone to violent uprisings has found the road to power? Contradictions, anyone? Instead of burying its awful, memorable last months, Republicans keep getting bad press for conspiracy with the riotous, Jan. 6 national calamity. Rejecting a bipartisan Commission (with more GOP control than a certain House investigation) exposed both complicity and dread of full exposure. Talk about handing over grenades to the opposition! Nothing threatens rightwing House members more than loyalty to Trump and to the absurd, “rigged, stolen” Big Election Lie. Criminality by rioters is now compounded by unholy Senate Republican collusion to bury lawless chaos. Keep those public votes coming, Democrats.
5) Trump’s only public role is now dividing his own electorate, with misguided pot-shots at queasy Republicans bemoaning steady party woes. Typically dumb Trumpism is railing against those, like Cheney, Romney, and Ryan, with superior reach to independents. Every Trump target holds higher moral ground, making the menace of Mar-a-lago look petty, reactive and deranged. By dividing an increasingly fragile coalition (billionaires, fundamentalists and disadvantaged), Trump fulfills Jennifer Rubin resume summary for “evil lunacy.” No phrase better exposes how Trump hammers away at a sinking ship while sabotaging the lifeboats.
6) As the anti-Trump (with growing stature), Biden is on a roll. Not in 150 years has one presidency so negatively impugned its predecessor – making the opposite of bad Trumpism look surprisingly good. Like him or not, Biden makes the Trump’s amateur clown show look even worse. Even with inevitable compromises, Biden will roar into the midterms with major wins, and perhaps with enough momentum to offset historic vulnerabilities. Nothing diminishes Trump like Democrats reducing their blunders while demonstrating decent leadership. Of course Trump’s lying, corruption, illegality and incompetence would have made any Democrat look world-class. Notably, what Republican seeking the 2024 nod would NOT duplicate the “Trump experiment” in anti-government?
7) Overall, this package sets up a potential 2022 midterm shocker, provoking Katrina Vanden Heuvel’s question, “Can Democrats beat the odds in 2022?” Trumpist Republicans won’t stop impugning elections, thus both discouraging their own fans and subverting their own voter suppression. GOP registration is all of 40% (vs. 49% for Democrats). With Donald off the 2022 ballot, chances are the Mar-a-lago miscreant boasts less leverage by late next year. Will Trump’s approval numbers not decrease as Biden and Democrats notch victories, proving which party knows how to govern and which party hasn’t a clue?
Looking ahead, how will House Trumpers defend the Jan. 6 debacle, let alone voting to decertify state election results? With hot button, culture wars less potent (abortion, birth control, wars on Christmas, China, pandemic masks, immigration), one wonders what empty, sound bite “gospel” vulnerable GOP candidates will be stuck with in 2022. Who thinks that fealty to the discredited Humpty-Trumpty will retake the House? And were Trump to leave the stage, by hook or by crook, who will play the Pence fool to replace the Loser-in-chief – Cruz, Rubio, Hawley, Halley or M. T. Greene, the new face of the GOP? Talk about stepping from sand to quick sand. Nothing like having a fistful of pretenders hoping the sorest of divisive losers goes down in flames, sooner rather than later. Just consider how many Republicans will never have to vote for or lie for Trump again. Desperation seeks its own level.