Only the colossal hubris of Donald Trump could have concocted the bizarre scheme to remain in office after losing the 2020 presidential election by spreading the lie of electoral fraud and casting himself as the innocent victim.
Trump’s audacious caper of mobilizing MAGA World behind his manufactured challenges to state and local elections — every one of which has failed to produce any evidence of electoral misdeeds — did not succeed in usurping the presidency, but it has been enough to keep him in the public eye, raising money from his followers. He continues to do so despite his so-far failed efforts to be returned to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
The prosecutions of his followers who stormed the Capitol Jan. 6, as well as the congressional inquest into the insurrection, should keep the spotlight on Trump for a long time to come, as will his concomitant appeals in the courts to overturn the 2020 election. Meanwhile, he will be resuming his itinerant road shows across the land, keeping the pot boiling.
Already, many 2020 Trump political enablers have taken to the hills to avoid the scrutiny of Congress and the press. Several members of the Jan. 6 mob have pleaded guilty to various crimes, and many more await trial. So far, Trump — who promoted the riot and even promised to join the mob in the streets, although he reneged and watched events from the safety of the White House — has avoided charges.
Beyond the spectacle that seemingly won’t end, Trump’s critics have been waging an uphill effort to convince the American public that the skirmish at the Capitol was much more than an intemperate spat but rather a serious threat to our constitutional order that came close to succeeding.
Meanwhile, the defeated former president teases his faithful with childish hints that he may seek a second term in the Oval Office. At the same time, essentially silent Republicans — aware of the further harm a second Trump presidency would do to the country and party — merely hope for the best. So far, they are doing little to find another leader of stature like that of the late moderately conservative Sen. John McCain of Arizona to offer supporters an alternative to Trump.
Ordinarily, conservative Republican Party leaders, especially those who rallied behind another celebrity figure, Ronald Reagan, might have been expected to seek another candidate with the same combination of charm and solid Republican principles. Instead, they seem to be settling again for Trump, apparently willing to blunder along behind him, swayed by his angry disciples in the party base.
If the 2024 presidential election turns out to be a rerun of the Trump-Biden race, it likely will be resolved by how much good each did in the Oval Office. Trump’s record and behavior probably won’t help him a lot right now, whereas Biden’s remains an open book with more than three years to write in it. To date, it appears more one of hope than of achievement.
As of now, Donald Trump is a well-established commodity not expected to undergo any major remaking, in character or focus. In this sense, Biden seems better positioned to make the most of his unfinished incumbency.
Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at email@example.com.