The view from Billinudgel

Trumpery lives on
Despite Joe Biden’s historic win, the damage done by the Trump presidency will be hard to snuff out

Image © Carmen K. Sisson / Cloudybright / Alamy

It was Billy Snedden, refusing to accept defeat in the close election of 1974, who gave us the immortal phrase: “We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose.”

Eventually he realised that he was still sitting in the Opposition benches while Gough Whitlam continued as prime minister. But for a few days the comforting delusion gave him time to come to terms with reality.

And so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for our current mob of conservative commentators to face the awful truth about the US presidential election: their reactionary orange redeemer has failed them. Joe Biden, the wild-eyed, socialist radical (or should that be the sleepy-eyed, ineffectual dotard?) is on his way to the White House.

The Australian’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, summed up their denialism thus: “Donald Trump has transformed America. The election is gone, Trump is still there …. Trump’s huge vote and Republican advances in congress could be seen as a moral victory.”

Well, depending on what you’ve been smoking, they could. But sooner or later up you have to look at the scoreboard and see that moral victories do not pay off at the TAB counter.

Yes, Trump did receive a huge vote, but Biden received a vote somewhat more huge, to finish millions ahead. And although there was record voter turnout, Americans who failed to turn up at the polls actually outnumbered Trump supporters. The Donald did not muster nearly half the population – in fact it was less than a third.

This, incidentally, made him only the fourth American president since 1933 to lose office after only one term – the last one was George H.W. Bush 28 years ago. This is perhaps not the record Sheridan is extolling.

But there is some justification for Sheridan’s assertion that Trump has transformed America, and we’re not talking just about his policies, many of which may be, thankfully, undone (climate change is an urgent priority).

The damage to convention, the rule of law, honesty, integrity and decency that Trump has wreaked – and is still wreaking – will be harder to repair. His legacy is not completely baked in, but the fact that it has been endorsed by a large majority of Republicans, who will keep the numbers in the Senate, means that Trumpery will live on, at least through the next two years.

And the man himself is not going anywhere – except to the courts, where he threatens to keep litigating until the last complaint can be dragged in front of the last judge, whom he himself has just appointed.

It ain’t over yet, and perhaps in Trump’s eyes it never will be. He obviously sees himself as the once and future president, and, incredibly, there are those of his sycophants who are contemplating a Trump re-run in 2024.

This is absurd, obviously. Assuming he is still alive, surely the symptoms of senility will be too blatant for even the most boneheaded Republicans (and some are seriously cerebrally ossified) to ignore.

Except that they did endorse him – not just once, but twice. In that sense, while Trump may not have won this time, it may be premature to declare that he has lost. To be sure of that we will need not another ballot, but a silver bullet and a wooden stake.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum was a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Much of his work can be found here: The View from Billinudgel.

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