This isn’t about Trump anymore — it’s about whether America is the country it always was

Donald Trump’s potential for disowning by Republicans is a serious question. In 2016, Republicans were willing to accept Trump as an aberration, but they could not help but believe that if he won the election, anyone would be better than Hillary. However, this time, Trump has conquered every outpost of the GOP, with his margin of victory in Iowa being 24%, breaking Bob Dole’s previous record of 12%. The idea that the constitutionalists, Reaganites, and Straussian conservatives who care about character might rally behind an alternative candidate has been exposed as wishful thinking.

In 2016, Republicans were defending a vulgarian interloper from daytime TV, but now they are defending a felon and an insurrectionist. Trump regards himself as bigger than the office he occupies, making no distinction between public duties and private interests, and is a proven electoral liability. This last quality is the most under-explored. Those who backed Trump after having opposed him in the 2016 primaries often explain their conversion with reference to his supposed electability. However, this claim does not stand up to analysis. Trump was a drag on the ticket in 2016 and 2020, losing the popular vote to unpopular Democrats both times despite being out-polled by the majority of senatorial and gubernatorial Republicans. All polls tell the same story this time. Trump might or might not edge the embalmed Soviet corpse of an incumbent. Any other Republican would walk.

From a narrowly British point of view, Trump is preferable to Biden. He is pro-Brexit and tried to offer us a decent trade deal. However, what are these gains worth if he gives up on the values it came into existence to defend, such as the peaceful transfer of power and the notion that no one is above the law?

This is not about Trump anymore, but about America. The country that was founded as an antidote to arbitrary power has fallen victim to a personality cult. The city on the hill is set, this time knowingly, to make a liar and petty crook its first citizen. The things that elevated and ennobled America—optimism, political pluralism, the ability to disagree with civility, respect for the law, and respect for the ballot box—are scorned by those who claim to be patriots.

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