What Trump Gets From Denying Defeat

It’s been a month since election night, and after weeks of lawsuits, recounts, wild allegations, baseless conspiracy theories, fired election officials, and fervent denials, nothing has drawn into question whether Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20th. He will.

I suspect Donald Trump is fully aware of this, but don’t expect him to concede defeat… ever.

This isn’t simply about his ego, though that’s a pretty big part of it. Trump and his loyal followers are faithfully invested in the theme that he is a consummate “winner.” That’s a tough narrative to reconcile after he lost the election by 74 electoral votes and lost the popular vote by a whopping 7 million… especially considering he was running against a candidate as unimpressive as Joe Biden.

Some may recall that Trump did this same type of thing back in 2016, attributing state primary losses to corrupt officials and “rigged” systems. Heck, he even did it after he won the general election, claiming without proof that he lost the popular vote because 3 million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary.

This is what he does. Thus, the denials will continue.

But again, this is about more than ego. While Trump’s actions and rhetoric are bad for the country, they’re pretty helpful to his political future, should he decide to have one. Because so many Republican voters don’t buy the results of the election (between 70 and 80 percent, according to the polls), it appears he’ll manage to escape personal accountability — at least among the Republican base — for having lost.

John McCain and Mitt Romney were cut no such break. When they lost their respective presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, it didn’t matter that both had run against a very strong, historically important opponent. It didn’t matter that McCain had the unpopularity of the Bush administration, years of war-weariness, and a 30-year mortgage crisis working against him. It didn’t matter that Romney had a big political disadvantage in running against an incumbent, landmark president. The sentiment among the GOP base, later tapped into and amplified by Donald Trump, was that they were losers. Thus, the party needed to get behind a much different type of candidate.

In 2016, Trump was that guy. A plurality of Republican voters saw fire in Trump’s belly. He was someone who would say anything and fight anyone. It didn’t really matter what was the battle or who was the opponent.

Trump also had luck on his side.

Whoever won the Republican nomination that year was going to have the historical advantage that comes with running against an opposition party that’s held the White House for two consecutive terms. But Trump also got to face a uniquely bad and broadly disliked opponent in Hillary Clinton, whose email scandal had been brought back into the spotlight (just days before the election) by an announcement of new developments from FBI directory James Comey. Despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by 3 million ballots, Trump won the electoral college and therefore the presidency.

With victory came the bragging rights, and boy did he brag.

Four years later, Trump also had a number of things working in his favor. He was the incumbent. The economy had been very strong under his watch, right up until the pandemic hit. The Democratic primary had come off like a political clown-show during every debate, producing one radical and ridiculous idea after another. That contest’s winner, Joe Biden, enjoyed little enthusiasm and drew serious doubts about his cognitive sharpness. Even with a global health crisis turning countless lives and livelihoods upside-down, state governors who took charge and exuded leadership saw their job-approval ratings rise; Trump did too, for a while.

But ultimately, Trump lost. And he lost by quite a bit. He was defeated by the same electoral-vote margin that he called a “historical landslide” four years earlier. 7 million more voters chose his Democratic opponent. In fact, as was the case in 2016, Trump won a smaller portion of the electorate than Mitt Romney in 2012, once again falling short of the 47% mark. Also, as in 2016, Trump under-performed congressional Republicans almost across the board.

By Trump’s own standards, as well as those of the Republican base in recent years, Trump is “a loser.” He’s a man who “choked.” A “total disgrace” who was “beaten like a dog.”

Yet, in the wake of the November election, few in the GOP seem to see it that way. By and large, Republicans aren’t placing blame on Trump. They’re blaming pretty much everyone else (Attorney General Bill Barr being the latest), but not him.

Trump’s super-power has long been his ability to alter reality, at least in the minds of many of his supporters, through righteous indignation and rhetorical repetition. All he’s had to do, post-election, is insist, over and over again, that he won. Well, that and cloud the airwaves and Internet with anecdotes, misinformation, and conspiratorial nonsense framed as massive, coordinated corruption.

It doesn’t matter that his case keeps falling apart even under the slightest bit of scrutiny. It matters even less what the news media is reporting, because they’re “fake news.” By continuing to “fight,” and refusing to concede defeat, Trump never really lost.

This will prove to be a huge political advantage for him, should he decide to run for president again in four years (which he’s rumored to announce during Joe Biden’s inauguration). Heck, it will be great for him no matter what he decides to do, whether it’s buying a cable-news network, starting a podcast, or taking his arena-show on the road as a private citizen. He’s already raised a ton of money off of the “rigged election” angle, much of which has gone toward paying down his campaign debt.

What it won’t do is help the GOP, as we’re already seeing indications of.

It was initially believed that Republican senate candidates would have a pretty easy time winning their Georgia run-off races, and keeping the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate. But after a month of Trump and his crew (including a number of media conservatives) baselessly declaring a massive election-fraud operation in the state, led by Republican officials (who are receiving death threats thanks to the bogus charges), there are now very real concerns that Republican turnout will be low enough, because of voter disenfranchisement, to hand the victories (and control of the Senate) to the Democrats.

This could be a lasting problem, and it’s not good for democracy. If Trump continues to press this theme from the sidelines over the next few years, other elections may be affected as well (not just in regard to turnout but also voters refusing to accept their outcomes).

And if you think Trump will feel even the slightest bit bad about any of the artificial chaos he has created, you haven’t been paying attention over the past five years. What Trump does, he does for himself. As long as it benefits him personally, he’ll never stop fueling unrest.

Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

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Did Cable News Pick up Where Pro Wrestling Left Off?

Those who’ve followed the professional wrestling industry at any point over the past 15 years will probably recognize the name Eric Bischoff. He was the Executive Producer (and later the President) of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the mid to late 1990s.

While Bischoff’s pop-culture notoriety doesn’t rise to the level of WWE’s Vince McMahon, he was once a very important man in the business. During his tenure, WCW revived a stagnant period in the wrestling industry with big-name talent, stunning athleticism, and innovative storytelling that drew in new viewership by the millions. WCW was so successful, in fact, that the company nearly put McMahon’s WWE out of business. WCW’s flagship television program, which ran head to head with WWE’s on Monday nights, won the ratings war 83 straight weeks, achieving something that no one in the industry had previously thought possible.

McMahon, of course, eventually made a comeback. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and in a last-ditch effort to survive the WCW assault, he employed what became known as the “Attitude Era.” WWE abandoned its long established, kid-friendly format and embraced outlandish, adult-oriented programming that included lots of profanity, over-the-top sexual content, and depicted violence that went well beyond the confines of a wrestling ring. The car-crash TV strategy worked, slowly peeling away fans from WCW while attracting many brand-new viewers.

At the peak of the “Monday Night Wars,” a combined 10 million viewers were tuning in every Monday to watch wrestling. The companies were even pulling away once reliable Monday Night Football fans, which had network executives spending big ad money to try and win them back.

Those days are over. Wrestling audiences are a small fraction of what they were back then, the decline having started long before the pandemic hit.

Eric Bischoff suspects he knows why, at least in part. In a recent episode of his podcast, aptly named “83 Weeks,” he weighed in on the topic.

“I think there are millions of people out there… that used to really love professional wrestling, because it was one of the first forms of real, alternative entertainment in the television world,” said Bischoff. “It wasn’t sports, it wasn’t comedy, it wasn’t drama, it wasn’t news, it wasn’t any of the above, but it was a little bit of everything… The question is, ‘Where did they go, and why?’”

Bischoff’s theory is that those millions of viewers from the coveted 18-49 ratings demo, who once sat in their living rooms cheering on The Rock as he dropped the People’s Elbow, or Bill Goldberg spearing an opponent out of his boots, have found a new home.

“Look at Tucker Carlson’s 18-49. Look at CNN’s 18-49. Look at MSNBC’s 18-49, in prime-time,” said Bischoff. “That was the wrestling audience. Where have they gone? They’ve gone to cable news. Why have they gone to cable news? Because cable news is now more like professional wrestling than professional wrestling used to be.”

Bischoff described the “promos” on cable news as being “f***ing awesome.” (A promo, in pro wrestling lingo, refers to the impassioned monologue a wrestler delivers in front of a microphone.)

“They get up there and they f***ing argue, and they cut great promos on each other,” Bischoff said of cable news commentators. “It’s great narrative. There’s almost always somebody up there that you want to choke, and there’s almost always somebody up there that’s saying what you believe in. So guess what? You have more emotion. You’re investing more emotion watching cable f***ing news than you get from watching wrestling…”

Bischoff believes that pro wrestling fans left and never came back because they’re now “watching something that provides more entertainment for them, because of the quality of the emotion that’s created in news versus the quality of the emotion that’s created in professional wrestling. They’ve actually flipped!”

Bischoff predicted that the emotion fueled by cable news personalities will eventually lead to physical altercations on-air. “They are escalating the emotion to that level, and they’re doing it intentionally, by the way. I don’t think these people all believe the sh*t that they’re saying when they’re on television.”

To illustrate his point, Bischoff talked about the audio tape that was leaked a while back of CNN’s Chris Cuomo secretly coaching President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, on the types of things Cohen should say in their scheduled interview.

“It reminded me of me laying out the NWO promo to Hulk Hogan at Bash at the Beach in ’96,” said Bischoff. “… I don’t think that’s an exception. I don’t think that Chris Cuomo did anything that anybody else isn’t doing. I think they all do it. It’s a gimmick. It’s a f***ing work. It’s just silly. But it’s more entertaining than wrestling in some respects.”

I made a number of these same points in a piece I wrote for National Review back in 2017, and it was pretty interesting to hear Bischoff (a man with a lot of credibility on the topic) essentially agree. But Bischoff took the argument a step further, touching on an area I hadn’t thought about at the time. He shed some light not only on the behavior of cable news personalities and producers, but also the audience.

It really did boggle my mind in 2015 and 2016 (the beginning of the Trump era) how so many cable news pundits managed to flip their personas and various positions on a dime, and embrace conduct and policies that they had adamantly denounced for years (in some cases decades), without the bulk of their audience seemingly even noticing.

For example, conservative commentators who’d been very vocal proponents of good character, small government principles, and free markets were suddenly singing the praises (and trashing the critics) of Donald Trump, a fundamentally dishonest and morally corrupt man with big-government, populist ideas that ran counter to conservatism. By and large, these people not only kept their audiences, but actually grew them. Those who stuck to their principles and remained intellectually consistent, however, not only lost viewers, but were suddenly deemed “washed up” and irrelevant.

It never made sense in the framework of principles, policy stances, and ideological beliefs… but it actually makes perfect sense in the context of sports entertainment — specifically when you think of the pundits as professional wrestlers.

Professional wrestlers reinvent themselves quite often. It’s a standard practice in their profession. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing gimmicks or how they look. Other times, it’s a complete character overhaul. Good guys “turn heel” and become bad guys. Bad guys “turn face” and become good guys. There’s not always an explanation for it, and that’s just a discrepancy the audience accepts as part of the product. A willing suspension of disbelief, and the entertainment value of emotional theater, simply allow for it.

Professional wrestling audiences, of course, don’t tune in to be informed. They don’t insist on truth from the product. What they want is to be taken on an emotionally addictive ride. When watching a match or skit, they don’t fret over things like hypocrisy. They don’t expect intellectual honesty or consistency. In fact, consistent characters actually tend to wear thin on wrestling fans. If wrestlers stick with the same gimmick for too long, they’re viewed as stale, and fans become less interested in them.

If these fans have indeed migrated to the cable news networks over the years, is it any wonder why the same exemptions from realism and credibility have been extended to cable news pundits?

Such audiences, after all, want a spectacle. They want entertaining, animated, conflict. And as Eric Bischoff suggests, cable news has been better at delivering it, in recent years, than professional wrestling. The same is undeniably true of Donald Trump (a man with his own background in the wrestling industry), who has led practically every national news cycle over the past five and a half years with his own performative brand.

None of this is to say that the spectators don’t want what they’re watching, and listening to, to be real. As was the case in the golden era of wrestling, they absolutely do. But therein lies the problem. While today’s wrestling fans are well aware that professional wrestling programs are heavily fictionalized, the same isn’t true in regard to cable news. Many cable news viewers believe what they’re hearing on the commentary shows are genuinely held beliefs, and honest, good-faith representations of legitimate stories. Sadly, that often isn’t the case.

And unlike professional wrestling, there are very real public consequences that come from popular cable-news themes — consequences that go well beyond absurd narratives, general disinformation, and cultural fearmongering. Baseless conspiracy theories erode faith in vital institutions (like our electoral system), and bring great pain to innocent people (like Seth Rich’s family). Politically-motivated character assassination derails innocent lives (as with the Covington Catholic schoolkids). Egregious acts by fringe groups and individuals are presented as systemic crises and coordinated threats to society, eroding all sense of perspective.

But it’s entertaining… and it evokes emotion… and it’s satisfying. It gives us heroes to cheer and villains to boo. And when that’s the bar that millions of viewers hold their news providers to, how can those viewers ever expect anything in return more substantive and intellectually stimulating than lowbrow performance art?

Personally, I’m done with cable news commentary shows (and have been for some time). There are too few remaining, featuring too few people with integrity, that provide any kind of real-world, informative value. When I want earnest, knowledgeable political commentary, there are a number of news sites and podcasts that provide it.

And when I’m looking to be entertained, there are also much better options than cable news, with better actors and actresses, whose performances are neither insultingly contrived, nor culturally toxic.

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Discrediting the Election Isn’t “America First”

There’s a memorable line near the end of Liar Liar, when Jim Carrey’s character, a defense attorney, is animatedly dragged out of a courtroom by a bailiff. Following a verbal spat, a judge holds Carrey in contempt of court and orders his removal. The room transcends into chaos. The judge is angrily pounding his gavel while I handcuffed Carrey continues his tantrum, struggling wildly in the bailiff’s grip.

Just as he’s about to be pulled through the back doorway of the courtroom, Carrey desperately yells, “I’m Jose Canseco! I’m Jose Canseco!”

President Trump has been reminding me of that scene over the past couple weeks, every time he tweets something like this:

Carrey’s referring to an innocent role-playing game he plays with his son. Trump, however, is talking about a different kind of illusion, specifically the delusion that he won re-election.

While Carrey’s portrayal of a habitual liar was fictional, and designed for the purpose of laughter, Trump’s real-life embodiment of the character is growing increasingly toxic in his final months in office. And it’s not particularly funny.

Our country is more divided now than at any time in my lifetime, and passions were going to run high regardless of who won the presidential election. But instead of the losing candidate showing some class and humility in defeat, and helping to tamp down some of those passions by simply conceding that he lost, and assisting with a dignified transfer of power, Trump has taken every opportunity to not only stoke further division across this nation, but sell millions of his supporters on conspiratorial nonsense that is undermining faith in our electoral process and institutions.

Naturally, his reliable Republican defenders in Congress and members of right-wing media have made matters even worse, amplifying every baseless claim and promoting every inconsequential voting irregularity as a national scandal. This will not only, in the eyes of many, undermine the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s presidency. It will also likely usher in unparalleled voter disillusionment toward future elections, which will disproportionately hurt candidates from Trump’s own party.

Respected professionals in our federal government, like CISA Director Christopher Krebs, who have spoken truth to power about our nation’s election integrity, are unsurprisingly being fired by Trump (for perceived disloyalty).

Of course, many Trump supporters are pointing out that the president isn’t doing anything illegal. They’re absolutely right. Trump is well within his legal rights to make all kinds of bogus assertions about the election being “rigged.” He’s well within his legal rights to file frivolous lawsuits, and continue to parrot thoroughly debunked claims of voter fraud. He’s well within his legal rights to fire people like Krebs for any reason he sees fit. He’s well within his legal rights to deny President-elect Biden important national intelligence and a smooth transition of power. And… he’s well within his legal rights to declare — over and over again — that he won the election, even though he lost.

But something simply being legal doesn’t mean it’s right. And what may be right for Donald Trump’s ego, as he struggles to accept the outcome voters freely decided on two weeks ago, is very wrong for America.

If Trump held the best interests of America’s citizenry in his heart and mind, he’d be focused on spending his last two months in office strengthening our position as a nation. But he’s not. He’s been out to lunch on everything from his intelligence briefings to the coronavirus task force (as the health crisis worsens by leaps and bounds), and is instead concentrating his efforts on publicly sulking about his political fate.

It’s a national embarrassment.

Enough is enough. It’s time for Trump to drop the theatrics and tantrums, and live up to his “America First” mantra. It’s time for him to at least pretend to be a responsible adult, and stop fueling the fire.

Of course, the chances of that actually happening are as comical as a Jim Carrey movie.

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Forever Trump?

On Monday, in a joint statement, Georgia Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue called on their state’s secretary of state to resign, arguing that there have been “too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems.”

The public denunciation and request for termination was remarkable for a couple of reasons. Not only did the senators fail to provide specific evidence supporting their claims, but Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, is a fellow Republican.

There certainly has been some electoral drama in Georgia over the past week, but not so much with the voting process. Sure, like everywhere else in the country, huge turnout amounted to long lines and a few problems at individual polling places, but it was nothing of particular note or consequence.

The real drama has been political. Georgia is a traditionally red state, but President Trump lost there by over 12,000 votes (they’re still being counted, but Trump’s loss is only widening). Additionally, while the Republican Senate candidates (which included both Loeffler and Perdue) outperformed their Democratic opponents (and also Trump), none of them reached Georgia’s 50% threshold required to win. Thus, there will be a runoff election in January, where the Republican incumbents will face their individual Democratic opponents in one-on-one contests, with a majority in the U.S. Senate on the line.

“Georgians are outraged,” Loeffler and Perdue included in their statement, and on that they’re right… at least among those who really wanted Trump to remain president. But without evidence pointing to these alleged “many failures” supposedly attributable to Raffensperger, it’s pretty clear that the angst is coming from the efforts of President Trump (along with his toadies in the conservative media) who has been doing everything he can to stoke doubt in the election results (something he’s been doing since even before election night), by alleging mass corruption.

Unfortunately, Trump’s endeavor has been rhetorically effective not only in Georgia, but throughout the country. In fact, new polling suggests that 7 out of 10 Republicans voters believe the election was not free and fair.

To be clear, voting problems occur in every election. So does voter fraud, to a very small extent. Yet, as conservative commentator Erick Erickson pointed out the other day, it almost never rises to the level of affecting the outcomes of even very local races, and there hasn’t been evidence of anything unique or systemic in this year’s election.

Back to Georgia…

Anger and distrust without evidence of wrongdoing isn’t grounds for a state’s highest-ranking election official to resign. Such sentiment apparently is grounds, however, for two GOP incumbent senators scoring points with President Trump, and throwing one of their own to the MAGA wolves in hopes of it generating an extra bump for them in the runoff election.

One would think that once Trump is gone from office (early next year), a lot of these tasteless, tribal political stunts would fall by the wayside. It stands to reason that Republican leaders who’ve debased themselves for the president’s ego, political standing, and tribal lock on the party for the past four years would rediscover some independence, and perhaps even return to some of the prior ideological principles that got them elected in the first place. But a recent (and sobering) interview with former RNC chairman and White House Chief of Staff for Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, suggests otherwise.

Speaking to The Dispatch’s Stephen Hayes on Monday, Priebus made no bones about the GOP remaining beholden to Donald Trump, even after the president has left office.

“I think, in the near future, Republican leadership is going to have to be Trump acceptable,” said Priebus. “In other words, there is not going to be immediate leadership within the Republican party that Donald Trump doesn’t find to be an acceptable person to be a leader of a particular… whether it be the Senate, the House… They have to be acceptable to Donald Trump if they’re going to be able to survive in this Republican party.”

Priebus qualified his remarks by pointing out how popular Trump is within the party, despite many Republicans, who ran for congress this year, outperforming Trump on the ballot.

When pressed by Hayes to define what the Republican Party currently stands for, beyond deference to Trump, Priebus had some trouble iterating a vision, ultimately settling on past GOP tenets like “limited government” and “morals.” Hayes rightly pushed back on the narrative, citing Trump-era spending levels ($7 trillion added to the national debt) and the extensive moral allowances Republicans have made for the president.

On the issue of the national debt, and how it was the driving force behind much of the GOP’s efforts against President Obama over eight years (before completely disappearing under Trump), Preibus made a glaring — I would say astonishing — admission.

“On both sides of the aisle, it’s a big lie,” said Preibus, referring to concerns over the national debt. “People don’t want to tackle debt and deficits, because they really don’t want to tackle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. You know that. Everyone in congress says, ‘Oh we’re going to get rid of the debt. We’re going to get rid of the deficit.’ It’s been going on since I was a teenager, we’ve been talking about this… No one wants to get serious about it, because they really don’t want to do what you actually have to do to get that kind of spending curve under control. It isn’t going to happen. It will happen when things get so bad that no one’s going to know what to do about it.”

Preibus alluded to that event being a debt crisis, which he described as inevitable. He even went as far as saying that the elected representatives who’ve sounded the alarm on the national debt (a Tea Party fueled, GOP war cry during the Obama years that earned the GOP a ton of congressional seats) are basically full of crap.

“I find it to be the most insincere, hypocritical, commentary… from politics in general… I don’t think there are three or four people that actually believe it enough to do anything about it. Believing it, and doing something are two different things. I think we’re going to face a major problem in the country in 20 years.”

Preibus did concede that one of the very few people who actually did believe in what he was saying about spending and the debt, and risked a lot of political capital to actually do something about it, was Paul Ryan.

Ryan, as we all know, was essentially chased out of the Republican party for not being sufficiently loyal to President Trump.

In summary, if one is to believe what Preibus says, the GOP has effectively washed its hands of any premise of fiscal responsibility, and Republican voters just need to accept that. Also (as has been further demonstrated by the conduct of people like Loeffler and Perdue), the party’s leadership, for the foreseeable future, is completely reliant on (and must remain loyal to) the instincts and ego of a single individual who won’t even be in public office in a little over two months.

If Trumpism truly is the path forward for Republicans, even after Donald Trump was decisively voted out of office last week, I can’t think of a more abysmal testament to the glaring weaknesses, spinelessness, and lack of vision of the Grand Old Party.

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A Repudiation of Trump, Anarchy, and Socialism

Four years ago, in the final weeks of the election, I was too quick to write Donald Trump’s political obituary. I was sure, like many others (including Trump himself), that he would lose.

My mistakes included underestimating people’s general disdain for Hillary Clinton, and believing that the national sentiment toward Trump (as reflected in the national polls) would be indicative of what we would see in key swing states. I was wrong, and I was immediately upfront about that.

This year, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. While I believed Biden would win, again based in part on what we were seeing from the pollsters (including in individual states, where the bugs were supposed to have been worked out), I was careful not to present my belief on the election’s outcome as an inevitability. And I’m glad I made that decision.

At this point, major decision desks have assessed the vote counts, trajectory, and regional considerations, and declared Joe Biden to be our next president. I don’t expect President Trump (nor his most loyal supporters) to concede defeat between now and Biden’s swearing in. Heck, I don’t expect them to ever truly concede it. Nonetheless, it’s our reality.

There were several surprises in this election. Turnout was one of them — the largest we’ve ever seen. Another was how close the presidential race was. And practically no one expected Republicans to retain a majority in the Senate and actually add House seats. But in hindsight, it all seems to make some sense.

Hear me out.

Donald Trump is of course an incredibly polarizing figure. He’s the reason voter turnout was as strong as it was, and he’s the reason a candidate as unimpressive as Joe Biden has now achieved the largest popular vote in American history (over 75 million and counting).

A lot of Trump supporters are committed to the fable that the president’s unpopularity is due to the media’s portrayal of him… and not what regular Americans have seen with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears, since the day he entered politics. To be clear, the mainstream media is indeed largely biased against Trump, and for that matter the entire political right. I’ve been saying this (including on this website) for years.

But at no point have those biases made the president any more fit for the office he holds. His breathtaking lack of character, his profound ignorance, his disinterest in ever learning the job (or even the basics of government), his admiration for (and condoning of) bad actors around the world, his chronic dishonesty, and his immense pettiness and cruelty are not media fabrications. They’re who he is.

If the insistence is that the media ended Trump’s presidency, and not Trump himself, a logical question must be asked: Why did other Republicans do surprisingly well in this election?

You may recall that the Democrats were pretty confident about picking up congressional seats (as many as 15), but the party actually ended up with a net loss. Cory Gardner of Colorado was the only GOP Senator (not appointed to a seat) who lost his race, leaving the Republicans with a majority in the Senate; a couple run-off contests in Georgia should solidify that majority. Also, the GOP gained two state legislatures.

These Republican wins came despite huge cash and media advantages for the Democrats. They came despite the party’s leader never achieving above-water public approval. They also came despite Trump (who had the very real advantage of incumbency) losing states he won four years ago, and losing a larger portion of the popular vote than four years ago.

So what gives?

Despite the Democrats’ unexpected congressional losses, Nancy Pelosi is insisting that her party has a received a “mandate” from voters. Joe Biden said the same thing in a speech Friday night. I think the opposite is true. I think this election was about repudiation.

In my view, the two most repulsive forces in today’s politics are the cult of Trumpism and the extreme views of the progressive movement. People who aren’t caught up in either have been told for years that they must choose a side in order to save the republic, and I think enough of them have just grown plain sick of it all.

On one side, they see a snarling demagogue whose constant need for attention, controversy, and self-celebration reliably outweighs his responsibility to lead the nation, even during a global pandemic that has killed over a quarter of a million Americans. On the other side, you see leaders making excuses for violence in the name of social justice, and proposing all kinds of societally damaging ideas, from “defunding the police,” to ethnic reparations, to student loan forgiveness, to the “Green New Deal.”

The desire to ditch both, I believe, was a strong enough sentiment to make a real difference in this election, as some evidence is beginning to show.

In other words, Biden was a repudiation of Trump, and Republicans not named Trump were a repudiation of radical leftism.

Sure, this is a pretty broad assessment, with plenty of room for debate as more electoral data comes in. Regardless, a Democratic president who’s to the right of his base, kept in check by a Republican Senate no longer beholden to Trump, may just prove to be the best possible outcome.

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