“I became worse.” That’s how double impeachment changed him, Donald Trump told a conservative audience in Dallas last weekend, without a trace of a smile.
This was not Trump the insult comic talking. This was the deepest Trump self. And this one time, he told the truth.
Something has changed for Trump and his movement since January 2021. You can measure the difference by looking back at the deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Trump made three statements about those events over four days. He was visibly reluctant to speak negatively of the far-right groups. He praised “fine people on both sides” and spread the blame for “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”
Trump’s evasions triggered a national uproar. As Joe Biden complained in an essay for The Atlantic at the time:
Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.
Trump wasn’t able to steal the 2020 election because enough state and local officials held firm against his anti-democracy efforts—but what happens if the ex-president’s allies nab key roles in future contests?
Donald Trump put United States democracy through a grueling stress test in the last election, forcing Americans to consider all sorts of chilling “what if” questions and underscoring how little a process that relies heavily on the honor system can constrain someone who has none.
It’s tempting to view the fact that the country passed—Trump eventually did leave office and Joe Biden took his place—as a testament to the strength of our institutions. To some extent, it was.
But the fate of those institutions depends on the people who comprise them, and it’s possible they could have fared worse were it not for several key officials who resisted Trump’s demands. Indeed, what would have happened to Biden’s victory in Georgia had Brad Raffensperger, a pro-Trump conservative, not stood his ground and declined to “find” 12,000 votes for the incumbent?
What if election officials in places like Pennsylvania and Arizona hadn’t won out over the will of Trump and GOP state legislators, who insisted, without basis, that the vote had been marred by fraud? Could Trump’s relentless attempt to undo his loss have worked?
Nevertheless, the ideological incoherence of the contemporary GOP is unusually severe. The Reaganites could not practice what they preached; post-Trump Republicans can’t settle on a catechism to hypocritically recite.
In reading comments left on various social media forums, one often sees Republican politicians described as “stupid”, “clownish”, “ignorant”, “spineless”, “cowards”, “gutless” and the like. We see them ridiculed for believing in conspiracy theories and for believing Trump’s breathtaking lies.
To this I say: get real.
Yes, a great many Republican officials do deserve the descriptions above. Louie Gohmert in particular is one of the most wretchedly idiotic adults of whom I have ever heard. But let’s cut through all of the idiocy and nonsense he and other Republicans spout.
They KNOW they’re lying. They know Trump is lying.
They do NOT believe the idiotic conspiracy nonsense they babble about.
Science can help us make sense of the president’s political invincibility.
Editor’s Note: There are reasons why Trump supporters think and act the way they do, for Trump. We need to be aware of these, to counter their efforts to support him. I oppose everything he has done to our Nation, and will hope we can remove him in 2020, and get America back on track.