Will He Stay Or Will He Go
This question has been on our minds for over five weeks, and although we know that Trump is going to leave, we’re all so traumatized we still worry. The real question isn’t whether or not he will leave, but how long will he control what was once the Republican Party?
There is a very plausible argument to be made that Trump and Trumpism will continue to dominate their Party. Who knows? Maybe he’ll actually run again in four years. There are also those who predict he will form some sort of cable network to out-Fox Fox to maintain his profile. It certainly is true, as former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, Evan McMullin, has written, that rather than protect democracy, much of the Party “[i]nstead clung to his mad king strategy, like sailors lashed to the mast of a sinking ship.”
While those outcomes are certainly possible, history argues against it. There have been many Trumpian figures who played off of the fears of Americans and grabbed their attention for a while. Think about Sarah Palin, Ross Perot, George Wallace, and Trump’s closet comparison, Wisconsin Senator (no, not Ron Johnson although he sure tries) Joseph McCarthy. In the end, they all assuredly lost their audience.
John Harris writes in Politico that there are three reasons folks like this always fade away. First, he says, “Cults of personality in American politics are quite common. But they never live long, and Trump has offered no reason to suppose he will be an exception.” Second, if you watch Trump’s statements and Twitter feed, it’s clear that he is only interested in his own personal resentments and has no big ideas to improve the lives of citizens. And third, “[P]olitics never stands still, but Trump largely does.”
In his “obituary” for Trump, George Packer writes in The Atlantic that two events broke the Trump fever: the coronavirus pandemic that Trump largely ignored as massive numbers of Americans died, and an election that saw record voter turnout and a decisive win for Joe Biden.
Remember, too, that Trump has hundreds of millions of dollars in loans coming due. He’s also got some ‘splainin’ to do for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. He’s going to be awfully busy.
There’s also the fact that although Trump loved seeing himself as president, he was never very interested in governing. He had a lot more fun galivanting around New York and Palm Beach than he had locked up in the White House.
The very smart Thomas Edsall cited Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker who said, “[T]here undoubtedly will be Lost Cause warriors and post-1945-Japan-style cave fighters, and it would be nice to think they will eventually be marginalized by their own preposterousness.” Let that be our wish as we close out 2020 and look forward to 2021 at long last.