Trump’s Reign Is Over. Now Comes The National Soul-Searching

Trump’s Reign Is Over. Now Comes The National Soul-Searching

On Saturday morning, just before noon on the east coast, NBC, CNN, and AP called time on Donald Trump’s reign atop America’s fractured democracy.

Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 US presidential election after an agonizing four days of tedious vote counting. He is the President-elect. And starting on inauguration day, Kamala Harris will be known to the world as Madam Vice President.

Biden delivered a prime time address to the nation on Saturday evening aimed at unifying the country after one of the most divisive periods since the Civil War.

Headed into the weekend, most experts, pundits, and political analysts knew the race was over, but given the exceptionally fraught environment, networks held off on declaring Biden the winner.

Trump spent most of the week alleging massive fraud and filing lawsuits in multiple states, despite offering virtually no evidence to support claims of what the outgoing president called “shenanigans” during a widely-panned Thursday evening press conference at the White House.

On Saturday, Trump was characteristically defiant. “Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor,” Trump said, in a statement that was clearly pre-written. “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.”

No one should delude themselves. It’s over. Trump will go down in history as a one-term president who was impeached a year prior to losing both the popular vote and the Electoral College. There will be no “alternative facts.” Not this time.

By almost all accounts, Trump has nowhere close to the kind of case he would need if he intends to mount a serious legal challenge with any hope of prevailing.

His only option now would appear to be an assertion of absolute power — an outright usurpation of the country’s system of governance and an explicit rebuke of the Constitution. If he were inclined to go that route, it seems we would have known by Saturday. In the end, Trump wasn’t prepared to take the dramatic steps necessary to realize his authoritarian dream. And for that, I suppose the nation should thank him.

Trump’s was a presidency defined by controversy and turmoil. He rankled allies, established friendly relations with autocrats, waged an unceasing war against the free press, chipped away at the country’s checks and balances, and likely did irreparable damage both to America’s reputation abroad and to the institutions on which the country’s foundation rests.

It will likely be a long road back for a Republican party which metamorphosed into a kind of personality cult under Trump. GOP lawmakers often put loyalty over principle and fealty over ideology, looking the other way as the president disparaged deceased Republican icons and former Republican presidents with no regard for the decorum his party would have demanded from any other leader. Also abandoned during the Trump presidency were GOP pretensions to fiscal rectitude, respect for the country’s post-War military alliances, and the Christian moral high ground.

Fortunately for the GOP, Republicans’ solid performance in House and Senate races this week suggests that even as Trump became a liability, his efforts to equate all Democrats with failed socialist experiments in frontier economies were some semblance of successful. It’s likely not a stretch to say that Mitch McConnell and other GOP stalwarts will not miss Trump, especially given some Republicans’ avowed reverence for Biden’s character, if not necessarily his politics.

Trump will be remembered by many as a demagogue whose presidency was a regrettable aberration, but as discussed at length in “It’s Time To Be Honest About What America’s ‘Values’ Really Are,” his election performance in 2020 quite clearly suggests that the joke may be on the optimists. Anyone who steadfastly claimed Trumpism “isn’t who we are” was at least partially wrong. In fact, Trumpism is who we are on any number of levels.

America can change that, but it will require a commitment to expanding education and, crucially, a willingness to accept the inevitability of demographic and societal shifts which, over time, will erode traditional privileges that many are loath to surrender.

But it’s long past time the country moves beyond deleterious notions of racial and gender superiority that have, for decades, prevented the country from living up to the ideals espoused by the Founders.

Of course, that’s always been the real irony, hasn’t it? The Founders themselves didn’t live up to those ideals. Not by a long shot.

At the least, Trump’s ouster will allow for the pursuit of “a more perfect Union” to resume. But perfection isn’t attainable. And if the world has learned anything over the past four years, it’s that America is far further from achieving it than anyone thought.


44 thoughts on “Trump’s Reign Is Over. Now Comes The National Soul-Searching

  1. You are painfully correct. But maybe — maybe — some of those that hid their racism (in particular) until Trump started blowing whistles, will go back into hiding. I am convinced those racists will not change their minds on the subject, but it would be gratifying if they crawl back into their holes and let the younger people decide the future of America.

  2. It can now be revealed!

    This entire election was a national mental competency test.

    Unfortunately, the millions who voted for Trump, a man who posed an obvious threat to them (and all of us) will still be able to drive, operate heavy machinery and appear in public without supervision.

      1. And they and their Republican “leaders” have dismissed the legitimacy of Democrats since Clinton was elected 28 years ago despite winning 7 of the last 8 popular votes.

        Eff them.

      2. I’m always torn on the topic. Yes, you shouldn’t insult people whose vote is as valid as yours and that you eventually would like to convince and get on your side.

        OTOH, how are you supposed to talk to people who repeatedly show either staggering level of idiocy OR staggering level of weird hatred and selfishness.

  3. Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate–we can not consecrate–we can not hallow–this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

    –Abraham Lincoln

    1. For those of us who choose Lincoln as our companion in good times and ill, I commend his 1838 Lyceum Address. It is worthy of reading in its entirety, I quote in small part here:
      “At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

      At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

  4. H
    So very well said. Thanks for helping to coalesce my thoughts, which before I read this article were split between jubilation and trepidation. You’re absolutely right time for our pursuit to get up and back on it’s feet.

  5. Many opining that Trump is not going anywhere and we’ll have to deal with him post transition, perhaps but I’m not convinced. I have no doubts he will seek to remain relevant but we are talking about an out of shape post-covid old man that will very likely face a tricky legal battle with the SDNY and a less amendable creditor in Deutsche Bank. Commanding the love and attention of millions of Americans is not the same as commanding the US treasury, military or justice department, his “real life” influence will decline significantly the moment he leaves (or is forced to leave) the White House.

    1. Agreed, I think it’ll be more like the scenes in the movies where the bully is finally exposed and then everyone stops taking him seriously. To be fair, it won’t be nearly to that degree, but I’ll bet a ton of republican politicians are extremely eager to see him go. Now they can go back to their regularly scheduled stonewalling which voters will then reward in 2022 because they still don’t get how damaging the checks and balances/gridlock mentality is.

      The only thing I’ll add is that Trump could still end up being a huge thorn in the side of the Republican party much more so than the country’s side. As I’ve said before, he doesn’t have to peel away too many Republican voters to swing elections heavily toward democrats if he feels that Republican politicians are to blame for his loss. The Georgia runoffs may tell us a lot about the future prospects of the Republican party.

      1. Was it presidential historian Michael Beschloss on PBS last night who said: “Donald Trump will be shocked at how many people are no longer interested in taking his call.”

  6. Trump was repudiated. Fair point. So were the DEM progressives. It is likely, although to be determined that the GOP has 52 Senate seats and gets 12 more House seats which must be shocking to Pelosi who forecast a 10 to 15 seat gain. Also encouraging for the GOP is the much forecasted demographic extinction is not occurring as Trump received best Latino support since Bush in 2004 and African American vote share is most likely up to 12% from 8% four years ago. Consequently Biden is handcuffed– no expansion of medical care, no Green New Deal, no adding states, no end to filibuster, and no backing the court. Can’t wait for the DEM civil war to begin. This may not prove to be a normalization that is hope for at least in the DEM party. Another unknown is whether Trump will do a Grover Cleveland and run in 2024 because he can argue that he got the second most number of votes for President in history, behind Biden.

    1. Part of Trump’s success with Latinos was down to him drawing a false equivalence between Progressives in the US and Castro/Maduro. In other words, it was attributable to him preying on the fears of those who fled regimes in Cuba and Venezuela. Or, put differently, it was attributable to Trump lying about the Progressive movement — again. You’re kinda/sorta perpetuating that false equivalence which, forgive me, is indicative of a pattern in your comments. As long as you keep it at the “kinda/sorta” level and add useful incremental information (as you did here and as you always do because you’re quite obviously a pretty smart guy/gal), I’ll let it slide. But the first time it ventures into territory where you’re, say, explicitly drawing that same false equivalence, then we’ll have a problem. Because that would mean you were spreading misinformation, which is against this site’s policies.

      1. Having spent 9 year so my life in Miami, I agree on your comments about the shift in Dade County Latino voters due to fear of socialistic tendencies. However, it is a valid point that the Democrats hardly have a mandate for their agenda. Both parties will be in a civil war with themselves as the extremes parts of the party battle the moderates. Biden has a real opportunity, albeit a tricky one, to find common ground in the middle. Full disclosure, I am a Lincoln Project Republican and a never Trump from the beginning.

    1. You take what you can get. Even though 70 million voted for Trump, even though I’m Canadian, even though it was expected, when the election was called, I felt some joy.

    2. Morality doesn’t even figure in to it. It’s how cults work, Manson’s followers were willing to do some pretty horrible things to please their leader. All of my friends and family from the small rural town I grew up in are solidly on ‘team Trump’ because if you like to hunt or fish, drive a pickup, and are white you would be ostracized from the community if you were to put a Biden sign in your yard. I think it’s more about cultural identity than anything else, and the human need to be a part of their community ‘trumps’ any other values. At least that’s my view from seeing people who I know are smart, decent and good people but they support a guy who doesn’t represent their own morality.

  7. Building up to fill the needs of the rural communities that felt that in Trump there was hope that they were no longer forgotten will go a long way in tearing down the divide between those rural Republican voters and the rest of the country. Help for small farmers, medical coverage and family services, improvements in education including meals for children, access to retraining for the unemployed, etc. We can’t let Donald Trump be their last hope for a better life. Not that he actually did much of anything.

    1. MoL – that makes sense. But in practice, I’m not so sure. In the rural parts of my state, the largest employers are government (mostly the school systems) and Healthcare which is heavily dependent upon state and federal spending via Medicaid.

      How do they vote? GOP, of course… and not just GOP but foaming far-right candidates.

      The old Dixiecrats understood this. Current democrats may or may not, but for moral reasons find it difficult to cater to those voters.

      In my most churlish moments I say let’s take Vlad is Mad’s approach even further. Let each damn county pay their own way! Why should my state tax money fund their schools, hospitals and roads? Why should we cover their spending year after year after year??

      But that is immoral, though I am steadily losing that conviction.

        1. Change to a direct popular vote (which is coming, albeit maybe not before 2024), and rural America becomes largely irrelevant.
          It will truly become the land candidates fly over to get to where they want to campaign on the coasts, with the exception of a few large cities.

  8. I’m cautiously optimistic but I fear what may still lie ahead. Perhaps Trump goes into exile beyond the reach of US extradition until 2024 then runs again or via proxy… I would love to consider this chapter over but I am afraid of what happens in the next 3 months and moreover how much influence he might continue to wield if not tar and feathered then locked up. 70 million Americans is far too many and this election far to close for comfort.

  9. 99% of all discussions avoid the point that Trumpism would not be the force it is without Fox News. It seems ironic that a single migrant from Mexico can be considered a mortal danger to the US, but a wealthy Australian immigrant can divide Britain, and then proceed to gain absolute sway over the views of 70 million Americans, all under the pretense of “fair and balanced”.

    1. This is an important point.

      How can education be reformed and improved in the United States if close to half the population willingly chooses propaganda and misinformation as the sole basis of how they are informed and how their opinions are shaped?

    2. Agreed – Until deliberate (and for profit) misinformation distribution is tackled head – on I don’t know how this divide can be resolved. It touches every issue we face.

  10. Respectfully, I actually think that the Republicans are in fine shape and that it will not be a “long road back”. As others have pointed out, not a single state house lost, big gains in the House with a significant increase in Republican women (double!), big improvement with PoC, and a chance to hold the Senate. If the Party can refine the message and get back to core Republican values of freedom, limited government, strong defense, only necessary regulation, opportunity, etc. AND put forward a solid ticket (perhaps Haley/Scott or Haley/Crenshaw), then the Party is in fine shape.

    We will be better off with two strong parties.

  11. I disagree with the diagnosis that trumpism is who we are. The 2018 elections showed that, and 2020 is showing it again, with Georgia as perhaps the clearest example.

    And the sheer number of votes that were cast this year clearly proves that we understand the power and value of our democracy. We are not a nation looking for an autocrat.

    The better tactical question is, what changed between 2018 and 2020? Why didn’t the nation more clearly repudiate Trump and the Republican party, in spite of its continued support of Trump and its cruel unwillingness to deal effectively with the pandemic and the ensuing deaths, lost jobs and closed businesses, health costs, etc?

    One possibility is that 2020 is a rejection of extremism on both sides of the political spectrum. With only two parties to choose between, voters again likely chose the one that seemed to them less bad, not necessarily the one they wholeheartedly believe in.

    Maybe our political leaders will recognize the opportunity to be had by returning to the center?

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