Gallup pollsters told us that Trump was 2020’s most admired man. He received 11 million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016, and increased his support amongst white women, Hispanics, and Blacks. But the Democratic nominee received 15 million more votes than Hillary Clinton had in 2016, and it wasn’t because of Joe Biden’s exciting personality. It had more to do with the personality of the Republican candidate. The doddering Democratic nominee was merely Chance the Gardiner, the un-Trump.
His graceless show of contempt for Jeff Sessions revealed a person without a spark of gratitude for or understanding of an old-fashioned Southern gentleman.
A majority of the voters had tired of Trump’s petulance, name-calling, and thin-skinned pettiness. Trumpism, the speeches he gave and the policies he favored, spoke to the needs of an ailing America and the hypocrisy of our liberal elites. But Trump the man seemed a vulgar narcissist and quite devoid of empathy. He lacked Dwight Eisenhower’s reassuring manner and George W. Bush’s self-deprecating sense of humor. He picked a stupid fight with John McCain which might have cost him Arizona’s electoral votes in 2020, and his graceless show of contempt for Jeff Sessions revealed a person without a spark of gratitude for or understanding of an old-fashioned Southern gentleman. Such friends as he had, crude fixers like Michael Cohen or pushy sycophants like Anthony Scaramucci, made our flesh creep and we were happy to see the last of them. Other appointees, the Betsy DeVoses and Alex Acostas, were wholly out of their depth. He had a few genuinely admirable appointees, the Jim Mattises and Rex Tillersons, but he failed to bring them along with him and they seldom lasted very long.
We had tired of Trump by last November, and this was before Trump supporters occupied the Capitol on Tuesday. I am so ashamed of them. They behaved like a pack of Democrats!
The left had celebrated the 2011 occupation of the Wisconsin state house by union members and their allies. That was real democracy in action, but it became undemocratic when the right played by the same rules. Then, during the 2018 Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, anti-Kavanaugh protesters took over the Dirksen and Hart Senate Office buildings and cornered Republican senators. That wasn’t a scandal. What was a scandal was the Kavanaugh nomination itself. What about occupying the offices of individual senators? There was something terribly wrong when a Trump supporter sat in Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office (D-CA) in 2020, but not in 2018 when a different set of protesters piled into the office of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA). And the destruction of property? Multiples fires were set in Washington, D.C. during the Black Lives Matter, and for months shopkeepers boarded themselves up to protect them from looters, but it was different when the right broke a few windows. It was unseemly but it wasn’t a coup d’état on either side, and (like Billy Joel) Republicans could say, “We didn’t start the fires.”
But if Trump is history, Trumpism remains, and will be the key to a Republican revival.
F.H. Buckley is Foundation Professor at Scalia Law School, George Mason University and author of American Secession: The Looming Breakup of the United States.