January 6 has turned Trump fans into NeverTrumpers

26 July 2022

4:00 PM

26 July 2022

4:00 PM

The 6 January hearings are a bit of a kangaroo court, since no one is trying to poke holes in the witnesses, as a barrister would do. Still, the picture that has emerged of a rage-filled narcissist in the White House is so devastating that it’s made Never Trumpers out of former Trump supporters.

That might seem to hurt the Republicans, but it would be to the party’s advantage if it keeps Trump out of a 2024 race that he would probably lose. The hearings might thus end up biting the Democrats.

The hearings have also had the unintended effect of making heroes out of the Republicans who’ve stood up to Trump, Mike Pence in particular. Trump put his vice president in physical danger, but it was Pence who saved the day and ensured that there would be an orderly transition that evening.

Trump had claimed that the election had been stolen and asked his supporters to show up in Washington on the day Congress was to vote on electing a new president. There had been fraud at the polls, to be sure. There always is, but it wasn’t enough to change the result, as Attorney General Bill Barr concluded. Still, Trump persisted and told his supporters that Pence had the authority to refuse to certify the election, and that sent the rioters looking for him. As they did, Trump tweeted, ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.’ But it was Pence who followed the law. Not Trump.

Pence wasn’t alone. An entire party has recognised that Trump was a disaster. The few groups that are still loyal to him – the Maga crowd, the end-of-the world chiliasts – are embarrassments who are missing a great opportunity to remain silent. Every other responsible person in the GOP has moved on.

They’ve recognised that the problem is Trump, not Trumpism. The policies the man had championed were a useful course correction to the ideological, right-wing party that the GOP had become after Eisenhower. Trump appealed to socially conservative and economically middle of the road voters, and that is the sweet spot in American politics.

In office, Trump was unable to see many of those policies enacted. Still, what followed the 2016 election was a reversal of decades of policies that had enriched an elite but abandoned those beneath them. The civilian unemployment rate fell from 5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, the lowest rate in fifty years. Trump’s trade protectionism cost him the support of libertarians but appealed to communities that had seen 3.4 million US jobs exported to China between 2001 and 2017. Real gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent. Remarkably, this was an egalitarian recovery, where the wealth gains accrued to lower and middle-class Americans and the richest families saw a decline in their income. By 2020 most of us reported that we were better off than we had been four years earlier.

While supporting the policies the man brought to the party, however, it’s necessary to recognise Trump’s failures, even before January 6. He was an outsider and when handed the levers of power didn’t know which to pull. He permitted apocalyptic figures to pose as his spokesmen and never learned how to staff his administration with competent allies. He brought in a few respected figures – the Jim Mattises and Rex Tillersons – but he couldn’t get them to agree with him, and they seldom lasted very long. Such friends as he had, crude fixers like Michael Cohen and pushy sycophants like Anthony Scaramucci, made our flesh creep, and we were happy to see the last of them. The man became the kind of person he used to mock: a loser.

What remains is to finish the job that Trump promised and failed to carry out. Trumpism, the speeches he gave, and the policies he favored spoke to the needs of an ailing America and the hypocrisy of our left-wing elites. But Trump the man was prickly and surly, and on January 6 he self-destructed. We’ve tired of his Lear-on-the-heath madness, and in future elections, smart Republican candidates will keep him at arm’s length, as Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin did in 2021.

If they do so, it’s hard to see how they could lose, matched against the Woko-Haram left in the Democratic party.

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