Done with Trump, the nation moves on

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Done with Trump, the nation moves on

Are Americans done with Donald Trump? Are voters over him? Is he past his sell-by date? Has he, to use a phrase as shopworn as the man himself, jumped the shark?

The answers are yes, yes, yes, and yes. All of the above.

For years, many principled conservatives and Republicans criticized Trump only indirectly, if at all. This attracted accusations of cowardice and lack of principle, but these assaults were mostly wide of the mark. Balanced and careful positioning was strategic and tactical. It was calibrated to move past Trump when it was possible to do so without losing his supporters. Taking the supposed high road of splitting the party and ceding control of Washington to radical Democrats involved as much disingenuous moral vanity as staunch principle.

But the calculus changed on Election Day 2022. Hesitancy evaporated in the gloom of Republican defeat. Trump’s allies underperformed the GOP, and this meant it became possible to say openly that the emperor had no clothes — hideous thought. The value of a Trump endorsement collapsed as fast as a crypto exchange run by Democrat superdonor Sam Bankman-Fried. The cost of crossing him imploded.

As if to confirm that he had lost his potency, Trump’s announcement of a third presidential bid was a flop. It was so drab that even Jeb Bush described it as “low energy.” Trump was tired, and people were tired of hearing him. He’s said it a thousand times before. He’s like Hillary Clinton in 2016. People were bored with the candidates even as they announced. This produced a tacit collective decision along the lines of, “No, we’re not going to do this anymore.” The New York Post published a withering editorial under the contemptuous headline, “Florida Man Makes Announcement,” as a footnote.

Even Trump’s own people are uninterested in sticking with him. The candidates he backed because they parroted his efforts to undermine confidence in elections accepted their own defeats without a whimper. Security staff at Mar-a-Largo had to block bored audience members from leaving his presidential announcement early after he’d droned on for an hour. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka has had enough, declaring, “I do not plan to be involved in politics. While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena.” One wonders how Trump’s wife, Melania, feels.

Years of restraint, with multitudes holding back from either criticizing Trump or abandoning him, stored up a reservoir of alienation. When the dam burst, there came a flood. People now have no reason to avoid distancing themselves from him. They want to.

In fact, voters have just told them to. That was the message of Election Day. Stay Trumpy, voters said with their ballots, and you’ll pay a price. Indulge his solipsistic bitterness rather than governing sensibly and paying attention to what the public cares about, and we’ll punish you.

Trump is running. But the country he wants to lead is running away from him. The party of which he was leader is no longer following him. And there are still two years before the next election.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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