The Trump era has often come wrapped in a cloak of self-protective irony. We have been asked to separate the man from his tweets, to believe that Trump doesn’t mean what he says, that he doesn’t intend to act on his beliefs, that he isn’t what he obviously is. Any divergence between word and reality has been enlisted into this cause. That Trump has failed to achieve much of what he promised because of his incompetence and distractibility has been recast as a sign of a more cautious core. The constraints placed upon him by other institutions or bureaucratic actors have been reframed as evidence that he never intended to follow through on his wilder pronouncements. This was a convenient fiction for the Republican Party, but it was a disastrous fantasy for the country. And now it has collapsed.
When the literalists rushed the chamber, Pence, Cruz and Hawley were among those who had to be evacuated, for their own safety. Some of their compatriots, like Senator Kelly Loeffler, rescinded their objections to the election, seemingly shaken by the beast they had unleashed. But there is no real refuge from the movement they fed. Trump’s legions are still out there, and now they are mourning a death and feeling yet more deceived by many of their supposed allies in Washington, who turned on them as soon as they did what they thought they had been asked to do.
The problem isn’t those who took Trump at his word from the start. It’s the many, many elected Republicans who took him neither seriously nor literally, but cynically. They have brought this upon themselves — and us.
Ezra Klein, “Trump Has Always Been a Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing”, The New York Times (9 January 2021), A21.