This intellectual exercise helps us bypass our partisan blinders. For example, what would you have said if Barack Obama had refused to concede the election? What would you have said if Black Lives Matter supporters had stormed the Capitol? After asking and answering these questions, it would be impossible for an intellectually honest conservative to justify Trump’s behavior.
The FBI’s search of Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago, reportedly, in at least part, to retrieve nuclear documents (Trump says that’s a “hoax”)—presents the latest opportunity for such introspective contemplation: What if Bill Clinton had left office and taken boxes of sensitive classified documents with him? What if you read about Hunter Biden doing coke with a pile of national security documents around him?
To some degree, we don’t have to strain our imaginations that much. Hillary Clinton’s emails (which I contend was a legitimate issue, regardless of any national security implications) evoked calls to “Lock her up” and slogans like “Hillary for Prison.”
But don’t hold your breath thinking consistency will win the day. Trump survived the Access Hollywood scandal, his disgraceful handling of Charlottesville, and two impeachments. He also lost re-election, sabotaged GOP control of the U.S. Senate, attempted a coup to remain president after losing, and incited a riot at the Capitol. These are simply facts.
The truest thing Trump ever said was probably that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and he “wouldn’t lose any voters.” He’s done irreparable harm to his party and his country—and Republican voters still overwhelmingly support him.
Can you blame Republican politicians for concluding that resistance is futile?
Unfortunately, this conclusion created somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Republican politicians had only believed they could make him go away, it’s likely they could have mustered ten more votes to convict him in the Senate (a step toward disqualifying him from holding federal office ever again). Trump can’t be stopped because Republicans have come to believe he can’t be stopped.
Sure, they’re also afraid of his voters. But there is a sense that Trump is invincible. That he’s above the law. As such, the only way Trump’s monopoly will ever end is if his luck finally runs out and the spell is broken.
The cleanest way for this to happen would be in the form of a sort of deus ex machina. That could take the form of smoking-gun evidence emerging which shows Trump committed a crime that transcends some technicality, and he’s indicted and goes to jail. The fallout is immense, but he is gone.
A less likely scenario (since the most obvious window of opportunity has already passed) is for political leaders to move against him, and for this to persuade enough of Trump’s supporters to matter.
These both seem like laughable scenarios in 2022 America. Outside of the criminal justice system, the most likely path to a post-Trump world (after the missed opportunity to convict him in the Senate) was for Trump to fade away and be replaced.
Ironically, the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago makes that path less likely, assuming it plays out like all the other “unprecedented” scandals. Indeed, it’s likely this is actually helping Trump get re-elected and killing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s momentum as a potential primary rival.
Maybe the evidence seized was so valuable that the risk of turning Trump into even more of a martyr justified the raid. Otherwise, either the Feds obtained enough evidence to put him away, or they may have just put him in the White House. When dealing with Trump, Napoleon’s maxim that “If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna” rings true. Anything that doesn’t kill his political career probably makes it stronger.
Now, I would like to believe that conservatives—particularly those who value national security—will appreciate the especially serious nature of this breach—and react accordingly. Is it possible that this threat is so serious that it could move the needle when everything else—including Jan. 6—didn’t? In the past, national security has been cited as a reason why Trump shouldn’t be elected president.
In 2016, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio declared that we can’t give “the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.”
Well, we did. The question is, do you think we should have let him keep our nuclear documents forever? Is this breach something we’re willing to ignore and defend?