We have all had election nights where it seemed as if one side was going to win and then it did not. I thought there had been election irregularities with mail-in votes. Was it the reality distortion field of Trumpism? Probably. So I have been down in that gravity well looking out from a distorted perspective. I thought Biden might well have won, but it was not clear. Fair enough. My bad. Biden won.
That is not what I am talking about today. From what I read, thanks to Douglas Murray, Trump incited an attack of a mob on the legislature buildings of the Congress. His words inflamed an already tense situation.
There are at last two ways of looking at his speech: a crime, or worse than a crime, a mistake. The moralists will call it a crime, and maybe they are right. The cynics will call it a mistake. As Talleyrand said of some political murder committed by Napoleon, “worse than a crime, it was a mistake.” What was this man trying to do? Overturn constitutional authority? No conservative or constitutionalist can abide the chief magistrate inciting a mob to attack a duly constituted part of government, be it his legislature or his judiciary. This behaviour is to be condemned.
As a conservative I deplore Trump’s incitement. But as a reader of Machiavelli, I observe that this is a disaster for conservatism of any meaningful sort. Now I never considered Trump to be a conservative or a free trade liberal. He was an economic nationalist and he did some good in relation to improving the conditions of the American working class through trade treaties heavily advantageous to the United States. He insulted, amused and bravado’ed his way to the top of the Republican ticket, and beat the worst establishment candidate (and to be the worst of this crowd takes some doing). He kept on pissing off people who I enjoyed seeing pissed off (an unworthy, ignoble but real-enough emotion). His very buffoonery and obnoxiousness was obviously an attraction for many people aggravated by endless political correctness and moral posturing.
I have always held Trump in a balance of judgment. The scales, until recently (in my view) weighed more in favour of The Donald than against him. He was more sinned against than sinning: the Russia gambit was totally hot air and shown to be so. Then it was Ukraine’s turn to be the de-legitimizing agent. In the meantime we were supposed to ignore a summer of riots by Antifa and BLM which were demonstrably egged on by Democratic politicians. The left was crying wolf for too long to be heeded.
There has been too much crossing of all previous lines of decency and self-restraint in recent years, by both sides. No one spent time figuring out why Trump won in 2016. And I hope the Republicans will spend some time figuring out why they have lost the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. All this is for the years to come. You must figure out why you lost before you can win again. I fear that both major parties in the States will learn nothing from their respective defeats in 2016 and 2020.
But for now, Trump has destroyed his brand, disgraced his party, embarrassed those of his supporters who are able to be reasoned with, confirmed every judgment against him, justified Trump Derangment Syndrome, and empowered people who will be quick to suppress public discussion and robust political debate. I am not happy with the state of the Union, and with myself for having indulged this buffoon. I reserve the right to change my mind later, but for now, I feel contrite.