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The Awful Trump Truth

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Andrew McCarthy was a Trump voter, but he says the way the president has behaved since his election loss has made him realize that he made a bad bet. The stuff Trump and his minions have been doing is going to come back and hurt us conservatives, he writes. Excerpts:

The Trump fanatics notwithstanding, the case for Trump, in 2020 as in 2016, was never based on the comparative merits and demerits of the man. It was Trump as opposed to whom? That’s still the most sensible way to look at it. It is, of course, why few anti-Trump conservatives framed their opposition as positive support for the Democrats, even if that was its de facto effect.

The hard part in this family squabble is not diagnosing the weakness of the other side’s argument. It is grappling with the weakness of my own. The problem with “Trump as opposed to whom?” is that we who’ve supported the president on that basis are less the bottom-line realists we see ourselves as, and more like riverboat gamblers. And what we’re gambling with is the country.

Yes, exactly. More:

This is the biggest point the Trump diehards miss. How is it possible that a zilch like Biden could garner 12 million more votes than the charismatic Obama got in 2008? They emote this question as if the very asking proved the gargantuan but somehow elusive election fraud. As if the nation’s population had not grown by 25 million since 2008. As if Biden’s haul is inherently fishy but Trump’s 12 million-vote improvement over his total from just four years ago is perfectly natural.

Biden may be a trademark hack, but that’s not why he stayed in his basement. He did that because he and the president had the same idea: Make the election all about Trump. The president started out in 2017 as one whom 54 percent of the country had voted against. He remained personally unpopular with over half the country throughout his term, especially when the pandemic erased his surging economy while highlighting his incorrigible foibles. It is not at all hard to see how Biden could collect a record-setting 81 million popular votes. In the main, they were votes against Trump, not for Biden.

Since the election, we’ve had two months of a president publicly insisting the election was rigged while hoping no one noticed that his campaign expressly declined the invitation to prove massive fraud and illegality in Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania, Trump’s team did not just formally drop fraud charges, they explicitly represented to federal courts that they were not alleging fraud. Yet Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) now vows to join Trump’s House allies in objecting to the counting of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. And other states’ votes, too. Even Hawley does not claim that the election was stolen or that any known departures from Pennsylvania’s election laws would have changed the outcome. He just wants to “raise these critical issues.”

Don’t faint when the Democrats start to “raise critical issues” too. If the election was rigged, for example, is that why Republicans did so much better than expected in the down-ballot contests? If Republicans are going to press the president’s claims, why wouldn’t Democrats target all those congressional seats and state houses won by the GOP?

Four years from now, what’s to stop Democrats from delegitimizing an election some Republican has won by mimicking Trump’s own lines of argument? Conservatives can scream bloody murder while Democrats, relying on today’s House Republicans, insist that Vice President Kamala Harris has the unilateral authority to decide which states’ electoral votes to count, and which to invalidate as too suspect. Try to keep a stiff upper lip, too, when Democrats cite Trump arguments in support of their quest to dispense with the Electoral College altogether — reasoning that a state’s popular election is irrelevant if enough elected Democrats decide the winner should be the Democrat who, the media will dutifully point out, has won the popular vote nationally.

Anti-Trump conservatives always maintained that, despite its policy successes, the Trump presidency would prove to be a boon for Democrats. I bet that they were wrong. On November 3, that wager looked better than it does at the moment. The last two months have been bad. It may take a few years to quantify how bad.

Read it all. It’s a sobering column. And a truthful one. Nothing has made the president deserve his 2020 election loss like the lack of character he has shown since Election Day.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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