AsAmerica processes the trauma and peril of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the terrible scenes of violence and mayhem at the Capitol that marked its end, there is a reservoir of panicky fear that he will somehow persevere simmering below the surface. He did such profound damage, it is hard to believe he could be gone. Yet for all the danger of those last days, Donald Trump is effectively finished.
While his political life is not yet over because his influence within the GOP remains, his chance at regaining the presidency is nil to none. It is critical that we comprehend this.
I’ve recently read a few misguided articles claiming Trump is actually getting stronger right now, that he is consolidating control over the GOP. I find these assessments come from a misunderstanding of the political moment, and the dynamics in national and conservative politics.
Trump himself is done. Trumpism is alive and well.
Donald Trump, for all his popularity with the extreme right and the Republican grassroots, is a defeated man. American voters sent him packing, and his subsequent coup was an ineffective and badly organized flop that ended in the worst national security and political crisis since 9/11.
He is seen as a figure of disdain, but more importantly in American politics, a figure of profound failure. He lost the popular vote twice and he was impeached twice. The politicos and politicians within the GOP know Trump is a lost cause, even as they viciously maneuver to capture his endorsement to gain his blood-red base of support.
America dislikes losers. Politics despises them.
Trump sits in exile, marinating in the hot Florida sun as smaller and smaller groups of sycophants give him his sad standing ovations at Mar-a-Lago. His once famous 757 sits in disrepair, missing its engines, languishing at a tiny airport in Orange County, New York, far from the action. His plane, like his personal brand, is decrepit and out of commission, a broken vintage. For all intents and purposes, Donald Trump is no more.
He has lost his media megaphone, and he has no way to manipulate the masses that were once so receptive to his every tweeted word. His efforts to establish his own social media network quietly blipped in the news today while Joe Biden was giving his first press conference. It was a classic cry for attention from a narcissist, and nothing indicates the project will ever get off the ground. The idea of a Trump-branded television network has also predictably gone nowhere fast.
He is radioactive. No one outside of Republican politics will go anywhere near him.
His business is hemorrhaging cash, both because of his toxic political brand and the pandemic he allowed to rage out of control. His recent spat with the RNC over their using his likeness to fundraise shows the financial straits he finds himself in. The fact that he lost that petty battle, and that the RNC continues to use him to fundraise despite his entreaties shows his profound weakness. He has been reduced to begging Republicans to stop stealing his meager cash out from under him.
The ugly nationalist politics he innovated, however, are here to stay. Within the GOP, his election fraud lies continue to animate a blatant campaign of voter suppression dressed up as “election integrity” in states across the nation. His unapologetic xenophobia and racism course through conservative politics like a disease. The trademark bombast, conspiracy-mongering, and blatant deception can be found in any number of Trumpian disciples, from Marjorie Taylor Greene to Ron Johnson. The Supreme Court has been seized by Republicans, perhaps the most consequential and lasting effect of his failed administration.
Trump has driven the GOP and its voters far to the right, and even farther toward embracing fantastical delusion and conspiracy. But the man? He is no more. It is his politics that continues to threaten America.
Trump is so inundated with lawsuits and criminal investigations that it’s increasingly difficult to keep track of them. The ongoing federal investigation into the January 6th insurrection is looking hard at his actions and inactions that day. Georgia is examining his campaign to lean on election officials there. Criminal investigators in New York are prying open his books, examining his long-hidden tax schemes, and combing through shady business dealings from his distant past. Pressure is being applied to Allen Weisselberg, Trump’s longtime accountant. There will be no respite from the incoming fire.
Trump no longer has anything of value to offer anyone to protect him. He is out of power, reviled by most of the country, and unable to bestow immunity or offer a pardon. He has a target on his back, and prosecutors will make his life hell. Investigations, if not indictments, will poison his inner circle, creating doubt and uncertainty. Cooperating witnesses will be suspected, fostering an atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust among his confidantes.
It will only grow worse as more surfaces about what took place behind the scenes of his presidency, and the details of his duplicity. We will learn far more from investigations, insiders, and the erosion of secrecy brought about by time itself.Joe Biden is the Moral Antithesis of Donald TrumpThe contrast between Joe Biden’s decency and Donald Trump’s cruelty is not just political.medium.com
There is value to recognizing Trump’s political end. It is the narrative itself he has always dominated to such great effect, telling the story of his own comeback to enable the real thing. America must recognize the depths to which he has sunk, exiled from popular culture and social media after decisively losing an election and fiendishly causing violence in response. The power of the truth weighs his options down.
Trump’s success has always depended on the mythologizing of his success, but now the legend is one of political catastrophe and dire loss. He is one of only a handful of American presidents shut out of a second term. His political record is an open wound, and his life is an exposed lie. His biggest governing failure was the pandemic, and his catastrophic mismanagement of COVID-19 will not be easily forgotten. As Joe Biden vaccinates Americans, and the world reopens, it will be harder and harder to characterize Trump’s presidency as anything but the national disaster that it was, especially for ambitious Republicans eager for the throne.
Trump is done. Let us hope his politics withers away with him.