July 14, 2022

Diane Francis

President Donald Trump and his cabal attempted a coup d’etat on January 6 by concocting voter fraud, then organizing and unleashing an armed mob on the Capitol Building to stop the transition of power. He then delayed sending in the National Guard for hours even after the building’s guards were overwhelmed violently and the lives of his Vice President, Senators and Representatives were threatened. Republicans and Trump insiders have presented this evidence of misdeeds to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th attacks on the United States Capitol. They have described Trump’s tantrums and machinations aimed at illegally overturning the 2020 election and their testimony has shifted the ground beneath the Republican Party and the former President. It increasingly looks like Trump is toast.

Trump still wields some power and anything can happen in a democracy as messy as America’s, but a backlash builds against him, including an “anyone-but-Trump” movement. Consider that there are no public, full-throated endorsements or defences of him being mounted by Republican donors, accomplices, or sycophants. Former allies or enablers step forward to denounce him, including Mick Mulvaney who left as Trump’s acting White House Chief of Staff after a few months in early 2020. Last week, he said that “the West Wing was clearly broken” and added “I’ve changed my mind [about defending Trump].”

A recent ABC survey showed that 58 percent of Americans want Trump criminally charged in connection with the riot, up from 52 percent in April. A Republican poll shows that 16 percent of party respondents even said that if Trump were the nominee they would rather support Joe Biden, a third-party candidate, or wouldn’t vote at all. Last year, 70 percent of Republicans wanted him to run for President in 2024 but that’s dropped to half. Worse, an anti-Trump group, the Republican Accountability PAC, has raised millions to defeat candidates in six key swing states who spout Trump’s stolen election narrative. It will back their Democratic opponents.

Most importantly, however, Trump’s media mob has turned on him. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television broadcasts the damaging hearings, and editorials in his venerable Wall Street Journal and New York Post jump on his grave. “Trump has become a prisoner of his own ego,” wrote a Post editorial. “He won’t stop insisting that 2020 was ‘stolen’ even though he’s offered no proof that it’s true. Meanwhile, reports that Trump was pleased that the Jan. 6 crowd chanted for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged — a truly reprehensible sentiment — makes him unworthy for the office.”

The pile-on includes hyper-masculine celebrities who have appealed in the past to Trump followers. Podcast king, Joe Rogan, refused Trump as a podcast guest because he said “I don’t want to help him”. Tesla’s Elon Musk, whose Twitter following rivals Trump’s old numbers, said: “I don’t hate the man, but it’s time for Trump to hang up his hat.”

Such high profile un-endorsements are disastrous and the hearings also guarantee that Facebook and Twitter will continue to block Trump from their platforms. Worse, Trump’s own social media entry, “Truth Social”, is a total flop, and he’s widely portrayed as a brat.

The Congressional hearings exposed the fact that America’s “King” had no clothes, all accomplished by testimony from Republican witnesses. Their anecdotes are damning and describe anger, violence, fibs, food throwing, yelling, bullying and the gang of “Star Wars Bar” misfits and right-wing extremists Trump gathered around him in his final days in office. Esteemed Republican pundit Peggy Noonan wrote in the Journal: “He might have been the only Republican who could beat Hillary in 2016. But he’s a `sure’ loser in 2024. The January 6th hearings have been a powerful indictment, well-documented and undeniable. America isn’t going to elect him again. They’re not going to let that guy back in that house. Because everyone knows it: Let Donald Trump back there and he’ll do a January 6th again. Because while his followers love America, he doesn’t.”

Rumours of his demise may be welcome news to increasing numbers of Republicans, but, lest anyone forget, Trump is a turnaround guy, a master of disguises. In the 1960s, he went to New York City as the son of a “slum” landlord in Queen’s and became a celebrity big shot in Manhattan. In 2008, following bankruptcies and scandals, he jumped onto “Apprentice”, a show which cast him as a successful tycoon. This brought him derision in the Big Apple — where he became a “punchline” — but brought him national fame across America. And the rest is history: He announced his candidacy, hijacked the Republican Party and became President of the United States. Metaphorically, Donald Trump is a human version of COVID, a pathogen able to overcome any immune system by mutating into more virulent variants.

Finally, Republicans are becoming immune to Trump but many may fall for Trump-inspired variants – in the form of radical Republican hopefuls. The danger here is if these newcomers can also hook up with right-wing extremists. That is why the FBI must disrupt domestic terrorist organizations like the Proud Boys and why Congress must crack down on social media. They cannot be exempt from litigation for trafficking in content that libels, slanders, hates, or damages individuals or entities. If these reforms are not enacted, history may repeat itself.

Prosecuting Trump criminally is unlikely and, given his age and collapsing influence, not as important as burying him politically, and polls show the digging is already underway by some Republicans. For those who still scoff at the notion that Trump is finished, consider also that there is not a single, credible poll in America that shows that his decline has levelled off or that he has any upward momentum. This indicates that the comeback kid has finally run out of road.