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Trump Voters Need a New Direction

This is what I tell Trump voters when they ask. It’s my general view on future paths.

I start with the obvious. I never meet Americans who love America more than Trump people do. They really love it—its history, what it means in the world, what it’s done. It has not always been a fully thought-through love but it’s generally fully felt, and at a time when not everybody bothers to feel such allegiance and gratitude it is admirable.

Six or seven years ago they had a piercing, bottom-line insight that smart people told them was crazy. It was that what was happening with America’s southern border couldn’t be solved by the two parties. They had 20 years; they failed. Democrats thought all the illegal immigrants would in time prove themselves Democrats. Republicans were terrified of being called racist and thought if they took moderate-seeming half-measures maybe they wouldn’t be seen as the enemy; maybe they’d get a piece of the Hispanic vote too. Nothing budged. Only some kind of human bulldozer could break through, some guy so intemperate and embarrassing in his language that he couldn’t backtrack, couldn’t change in office. There were other issues—maybe the businessman could do something about globalism, and China—but immigration was really it.

In 2016 Trump supporters called an audible, threw the long ball, and to the shock of all won.

There were things beyond country-love and insight in the Trumpian brew—the joy of social resentment, some jacked-up nihilism, the pleasure of suddenly having comrades and belonging to something, of suddenly having power and being able to rub your so-called superiors’ faces in it. But there was strategy, too.

Republicans can argue about Donald Trump’s single term. He was not strictly speaking a capable man, which surprised those who think the rich are. It’s not that he couldn’t make a deal; it’s that he never knew where the deal was, didn’t know who to go to because he didn’t understand Washington. The border is more overwhelmed than ever, the wall wasn’t built, China continues to loom. But there were no new wars, and conservative justices joined the high court.

Now we jump to this moment, to the Jan. 6 committee and the testimony—under oath—of Mr. Trump’s loyalists, who worked for him in the White House and led his 2020 re-election effort. What they said in essence—and again, under oath—is that the idea the election was stolen was all made up, pure fiction, a deliberate lie aimed at overturning the election.

This was an act against the Constitution, against the formal and informal arrangements and traditions better people had labored to maintain for more than two centuries.

The president’s people had told him he hadn’t won. On election night, according to one witness, everyone said so but an “inebriated”

Rudy Giuliani.

But a drunk Rudy wasn’t enough, so Mr. Trump looked around for kooks, crooks and freaks. He didn’t have to look far because America has lots of them, and Trumpworld more than most.

Their efforts were knocked down in the courts by Trump-appointed judges and rebuffed in the states by Republican officials. Mr. Trump tried to get his vice president to go along, but he refused. So he threw his most passionate supporters on the ground into it, and told them to march on the Capitol. “Be there, will be wild!”

Those poor stupid people did. From the testimony of those arrested: “Trump asked us to come,” said

Robert Schornack.

Eric Barber

: “He personally asked us to come to D.C. that day . . . for everything he’s done for us, if this is the only thing he’s gonna ask of me, I’ll do it.” Daniel Herendeen understood Trump to be saying, “Come to D.C., big things are gonna happen.”

More than 800 people were arrested. Some have served painful time; there was at least one suicide.

There is no record of Mr. Trump visiting them in prison. There is no record of his paying their bills. No record of his taking responsibility for their actions and requesting mercy. No record they were shown a cent of the $250 million Mr. Trump’s small-donor fundraising operation took in after the election.

The 1/6 hearings have been a powerful indictment, well-documented and undeniable. It is wishful thinking on the part of Trump supporters to dismiss the hearings on the grounds that most Americans didn’t watch them. Everything said will filter out and down, seep into the general knowledge base, and come to be understood as “what happened.” It will further damage Mr. Trump’s standing.

The November election will be good for Republicans, how good we’ll see. The presidential cycle then begins. The Biden administration from Afghanistan through inflation denialism hasn’t been a success. The economy won’t get better in time for 2024. My guess is little will.

In this atmosphere a normal upstanding Republican or a normal accomplished conservative would beat whatever the Democratic ticket is.

It is only Mr. Trump who would surely lose.

He lost in 2020 by seven million votes with a growing economy and no inflation—and that was before the events of 1/6.

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 1/6 again. Because while his followers love America, he doesn’t. He likes it as far as it goes, appreciates it as the stage for his greatness, but beyond that . . .

Trump voters: Call an audible again. Look at the field and the facts, be strategic. Donald Trump, in the 2016 primaries, tended to win with about a third of the vote. In a field of 17 that was enough. It’s looking like the GOP field could be larger than expected in 2024, and of course Mr. Trump could run again and win the nomination again. It will be easier for him if past Trump voters fail to think strategically, and if donors big and small don’t move early to winnow the field.

Here is the Republican tragedy of the past seven years: In 2016 only Donald Trump could have beaten

Hillary Clinton.

And of all GOP primary candidates that year, only Mr. Trump couldn’t govern, because he had no interest in governance and is himself ruled by emotions and impulses as opposed to judgment. He is sort of a 1950s caricature of a woman. Actually I suppose I mean he’s colorfully masculine yet not at all manly—a screaming meemie instead of a steady bomber pilot. I say this not to be gratuitous but because his nature dictated his actions on 1/6 and before, and will again.

Why doesn’t the party get someone who can govern now? Why not try to know reputable power, right what needs righting, put competent people in charge?

Serious people will know to move more quickly this cycle than they have in the past.

So that’s what I tell Trump voters: Be serious. Move quickly. Let go of the anvil that, in the most buoyant waters imaginable, will sink you to the bottom of the sea.

Potomac Watch (01/07/21): A politician has to work hard to destroy a legacy and a future in a single day. President Donald J. Trump managed it. Image: John Minchillo/Associated Press

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