Don’t look now, but the chickens are coming home to roost. Everything that Never Trumpers warned Republicans about Donald Trump is coming true.
COVID-19 is the kind of national emergency many of us raised when we warned Republicans not to elevate a man so clearly unprepared and ill-suited to the job.
The petulance, lack of discipline, short attention span, narcissism, lies and endless need for public praise and approval that were treated by Trump’s supporters as charming advantages or manageable eccentricities have been exposed as glaringly irredeemable deficiencies in an American president.
As his failings become a matter of life and death for millions of Americans, they are also posing an existential threat for the Republican party that has already bet the House (and lost) on Trump, and is now betting the whole farm. They are in serious danger of losing not just the presidency but also the U.S. Senate, in 2020.
As National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writes, “Of the 10 most-competitive Senate races, Democratic candidates outraised their Republican rivals in eight of them—often by massive margins.”
This is a recent development that is largely the result of Trump’s inability to manage a crisis.
On the other hand, Republicans should have seen this sort of thing coming. Even if all the warnings (not to mention movies) about pandemics were ignored, what are the odds that a president can survive four years without facing some sort of massive crisis? I’m far from clairvoyant, but my final column of 2019 warned about precisely this kind of black swan event.
Republicans were making a risky political calculation when they overlooked Trump’s obvious character flaws, supported his presidency, and failed to remove him for clearly impeachable behavior (on Earth 2, President Pence, on top of COVID-19 testing and comforting a shaken nation, is enjoying sky-high approval ratings).
Instead, Republicans gambled and won—but it was a Pyrrhic victory.
More and more, Trump looks like a one-term president whose bad reputation may live much longer than his tenure in office, reinforcing negative stereotypes about Republicans, undermining positive ones, and casting a pall on a generation of Republicans who enabled him.
Criticizing him today is easy, but just a few months ago, Never Trumpers looked to be relegated to another four years in the wilderness, as Trump was acquitted in the Senate, and Democrats appeared poised to nominate a socialist for president.
But the thing about picking a leader of the free world is that they have to rise to the occasion when times are bad. That’s because, at some point, every president gets tested.
The sad thing is, voters don’t really seem to care who answers that red phone when it rings at 3 a.m. They don’t care, that is, until after the phone rings. Somehow, Donald Trump made it three full years.
Now, he’s on the line and babbling about injecting bleach, insulting the libs and otherwise drowning in flop sweat.
Friends like Piers Morgan are warning him he’s in danger of losing the White House. A new poll shows the state of Ohio—thought to have become a reliably red state—swinging Biden’s way. He could even lose Arizona. Or his new home state of Florida. And things are looking even more ominous for the vulnerable Republican senators who stuck their necks out for him.
Who could’ve seen that coming? Oh yeah…
Then again, the other thing about chickens coming home to roost is that you shouldn’t count them before they hatch. Maybe Houdini will pull off another miraculous escape. Stranger things have happened. But re-election does not make one right (see Richard Nixon), just resilient. In the end, it is healthy when bad behavior comes with a cost (again, see Richard Nixon).
While we should not root for a deadly virus just to say, “I told you so,” if anything good is to come from this horrible experience maybe it will be a renewed appreciation for attributes like character and temperament and experience. At least, that would allow future Americans to benefit from what we are enduring now.
I’m reminded of a parable in the Bible comparing a wise builder to a foolish one.
The moral is you should always build your house on rock, because, eventually, the rain comes, and the streams rise, and the winds blow, and when that happens (the Matt Lewis interpretation is) no amount of public relations spin will save you.
And what people like me have been worried about all these years is this: Trump’s tower was always built on the sand.