A year ago, he was still a dreaded presence, a destroyer of American institutions forcing chaos on a frightened nation. After the public voted to remove him from the White House, he maintained relevance by controlling a violent mob stupid and criminal enough to trash the Capitol, threaten to hang the vice president and kill police officers.
Donald Trump had taken America on one of those dark amusement park rides, but like them, the thrill loses its punch through repetition. On the first go-through, scary ghosts and demons jump out at you. By the third time, however, the screeches are anticipated. You start noticing the peeling paint and hear the creaking machinery.
Trump’s announcement that he would run again for the presidency was one such ride, but with bright lights now exposing the cracks and the hokum. That jutting jaw emitted the usual firehose of resentment and added some new lies to the repertory. All that was missing was Herbert Lom at the organ in a “Pink Panther” movie.
Clearly, revenge for losing the 2020 election still burns within, but the blowtorch is running low. Any real shock came in the weeks before, when he made fun of Nancy Pelosi over the attack on her husband and directed some Asian slurs at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s name. And he belittled his chief rival and the Republican elite’s great hope, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
Then the midterms happened, and Trump’s candidates got slaughtered. In announcing his candidacy, Trump seemed low-energy, depressed and humiliated. He had trapped himself in a corner by promising to make the big speech right after midterms, obviously in anticipation of happier results. Of course, he couldn’t be seen backing down. Besides, as the criminal prosecutions close in, Trump undoubtedly wants some protection as a presidential candidate.
Adding insult, DeSantis had just won a big reelection victory, albeit against a nearly invisible Democratic Party and lackluster candidate. And DeSantis took some thunder from Trump’s anticipated call to arms by lobbing his first spitball the day before. He called the election results “hugely underwhelming” for Republicans while leaving out “and you know why.” That made the dig of greater concern because it smartly didn’t attack Trump directly but just alluded to his political impotence.
Trump made a big push for his last standing endorsement, Georgia senatorial candidate Herschel Walker. The morally vacant former football star was left standing only because his opponent, the incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, couldn’t get his vote count over the 50% mark, as required by Georgia law. Thus, there will be a runoff.
Trump has been raising money for Walker, and yes, he’d been keeping 90% of the funds for himself. And so it goes.
The pinpricks pile up. Ivanka has publicly distanced herself from her father’s campaign. The news channels, Fox News included, broke away from Tuesday’s drone. And the formerly friendly New York Post mocked Trump, with a bottom-of-the-front-page headline reading, “Florida Man Makes Announcement. Page 26.”
That’s not to say that Trump’s worshipful followers can’t cause political havoc. It’s obvious that he’s going to pull their strings until the box closes on the last dead-ender. But to the extent that Trump remains a threat, he’s a threat to the Republican Party whose leaders are currently at each other’s throats, also by his design.
For the innocent bystanders who’ve felt trapped in Trump’s wackiness, the man is no longer “The Terror Ride” but more a house of funny mirrors.
The America of Joe Biden, meanwhile, offers respite as a normal country with problems to solve. And Trump’s “American carnage” has become strictly his own.
Froma Harrop, a syndicated columnist, writes for the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
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