By Conrad Black
The battle lines were drawn within a couple of hours following the acquittal of former President Trump in his second impeachment case, between Trump and his followers and the recently returned ghost of the Never Trump movement.
The ex-president’s Republican enemies are pale and malnourished after four years skulking in the cave of Republican loyalism while counting the days until they could assault the Great Interloper. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell finally threw down the mask and he clearly thinks that he covered off the loyalty requirement by voting to acquit but established his credentials as a Never Trumper by the obiter dicta in his remarks in the Senate on Saturday.
He effectively invited the Democrats to indict the ex-president in the criminal courts of Washington and devised the fatuous notion that Trump’s entire post-electoral challenge of the integrity of the result was an incitement to violence against the U.S. government. These issues have been aired and none of it remotely meets the legal criteria for conviction on a charge of incitement to violence.
McConnell, a former prosecutor, is well aware of that. Like Speaker Pelosi, he exudes the air of someone suffering from “lese majeste” because of the assault on the Capitol. The building is much admired but the Congress is despised by 85 percent of the public. Trump isn’t the source of this problem, McConnell and Democratic Senate leader Schumer and Pelosi are.
The real problem is that the Never Trumpers know that there are real questions about the Electoral College results in several of the swing states. But they are delighted that Trump was defeated yet are trying to hang onto the popularity that the Republican Party gained having Trump as its leader.
McConnell is alleged to be furious that he was ejected as majority leader because two Democrats won the Georgia Senate runoff in January. Trump apparently feels that since much of the congressional Republican leadership came snorting out of the undergrowth after the election expressing their delight at the prospect of life without Trump, the departing president had no obligation to help preserve McConnell’s preferments as majority leader.
Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dee
It is quite possible that Trump thought that if the Republicans retained control of the Senate, the Biden administration would have an excuse for not enacting the radical-left Sanders-Ocasio program. He may have reasoned that it was preferable for the country to learn what implementation of the so-called Biden-Sanders Unity program would mean, including the Full Monty of the Green New Deal, quasi-open borders, drastic tax increases, truckling to the teachers’ unions over school openings, and official subservience to what amounts to white-hating anti-American historical revisionism, as well as the foreign flourishes of abject appeasement of Iran, the Palestinians, and possibly even China.
McConnell and Trump were able to agree on taxes, the confirmation of judges, and a united resistance to the initial (nonsensical) impeachment effort. But McConnell sat on his hands for the first six months of Trump’s administration waiting to see whether he would be impeached or not. He gave no support whatever on healthcare and was complicit in making the Republican senators appear hypocrites in having voted many times to repeal Obamacare when they knew that their vote would be vetoed by President Obama, but stumbling on their faces when they knew that repeal would be approved by Trump.
McConnell has come out of the closet: he regards Trump as a dreadful aberration and now that the voters have apparently defeated him, the Republicans should go back to the comfortable Tweedledum to the Democratic Tweedledee in which McConnell and his cronies wallowed comfortably throughout the post-Reagan, McRomBush years.
President Trump’s statement immediately after the Senate verdict made it clear that he does not intend to relinquish control of the Republican Party and all polls indicate that the overwhelming majority of Republicans are Trump supporters. The only conceivable people who would now have any support if they ran for the Republican presidential nomination are themselves Trump supporters, especially Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The legitimacy of Biden’s election victory remains a real question, despite superhuman attempts to suppress the question. A change of only 50,000 votes properly distributed between Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, would flip the election and it is very difficult to make the case that there is no chance that that happened.
The principal reason that Trump lost the popular vote apparently was that the electorate simply was exhausted by him—a human tornado by day and a non-stop tweeter by night, constantly in the face of the entire country. He had a record that would normally easily have gained him reelection, but a public personality that he thought it was necessary to maintain to keep his followers behind him but that offended the narrow majority of Americans who require more dignity from their president.
In these circumstances, the ex-president’s quietism becomes him. If the new administration continues to open up fissures between its far left and traditional Democratic followers and leaves the Trump Republican movement with almost the complete support of gun-owners, religious practitioners, small businessmen, farmers, unabashed believers in the traditional virtues of America, and all those concerned about personal safety and law enforcement, Trump will gain steadily in the polls coming up to the midterm elections next year. He will have to be heard from often enough to remind his followers of his strong points but not so frequently that it refreshes the irritation that many millions felt at his constant combative presence as president.
If the Biden administration moves back from the left and is generally competent, the Trump phenomenon will decline. If it stumbles and is seen as ineffectual and to the left of the country, Trump’s strength will grow steadily without his having to do much to reinforce it.
Of the seven senators who voted to convict Trump, Cassidy, Collins, McConnell, and Sasse were just reelected, Romney has four years to the end of his term, so they are safe enough. But Murkowski could have problems in her primary next year, along with Liz Cheney in the House. (Sen. Toomey is retiring next year.)
Trump has pledged that he will soldier on to remake the Republican Party along the lines that are now familiar. The Trump-haters that remain within that party are dependent upon President Biden to make their political lives safe for them. A quieter, wiser, and more focused Donald Trump is infinitely stronger than his Republican opponents who spent the last four years either in hiding and scheming, or in tedious public agonies like Senator Sasse, about why they are still in the Republican Party.
Since Trump has by far the greatest following of anyone in American politics today and is in robust health, the serene predictions of his evaporation should not receive much credence. That is more likely to be the fate of the theory’s authors.
Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world. He’s the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, and, most recently, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” which has been republished in updated form.
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