Where Trump Went Wrong

Currently the entire world, more or less, is engaged in a ritual hate-fest directed at President Donald Trump. For the Democrats, this is nothing new. They have indulged an insane level of hate against Trump since 2015. That hate gave rise, among many other things, to the criminal Russia collusion hoax. But the mini-riot at the Capitol last week finally gave the Democrats the opportunity to claim that their longstanding opposition to everything Trump, including nearly all of his successful policies as president, has been vindicated.

Obviously, President Trump has contributed to his own demise. Not by battling the Democrats for the last four years, not always in the most elegant way but usually effectively, but by his post-election behavior. But here, a distinction should be made. President Trump questioned the integrity of the election, and argued that he really won it, if only legal votes were counted. As I wrote here, I think the jury is out on that question.

There is no serious doubt that voter fraud is a problem, and Trump was right to highlight it. The Democrats are now trying to use Trump’s supposed disgrace to prohibit all discussion of election integrity, which is dishonest political opportunism. Conservatives want honest elections, and in the months and years to come, we must fight for them against Democratic opposition.

But Trump also indulged a delusional fantasy: the idea that Joe Biden’s apparent victory would be reversed, and that he would serve a second term. There was never a chance that this would happen. The many lawsuits that Trump and his supporters filed were doomed from the beginning. Whether their allegations were true or false was a complicated fact question that could not possibly be sorted out in 60 or 90 days. This fact was obvious to anyone familiar with litigation, but one of Trump’s faults is that he has lousy taste in lawyers. Exhibit A is Michael Cohen; Exhibits B and C are Sidney Powell and Lin Wood.

By claiming, absurdly, that the election wasn’t over and his lawsuits would succeed in giving him a second term, Trump riled up, and misled, his base. To some extent, that was reflected in the crowd that showed up in D.C. on January 6. The overwhelming majority were peaceable citizens who wanted to show their support for a very good president, but some took seriously the idea that a second term was possible.

In his speech on January 6, Trump did nothing to incite violence, contrary to the Democratic Party’s lies. But his unrealistic view of his own prospects probably contributed to the belligerence of some of his supporters. (Before you start commenting, rest assured that I understand that those who besieged the Capitol were a combination of rabid Trump fans, Antifa or other left-wing infiltrators, and the sort of horn-wearing nuts who love riots of any kind.) Trump should have conceded the election, while at the same time emphasizing the need for integrity in our elections.

The extent to which some of Trump’s fans were misled by his fantastical claim to a second term is illustrated by this tweet by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow guy who is a prominent Trump supporter:

This tweet has been deleted? I should hope so. Lindell wants to run for Governor of Minnesota in 2022. Being a solid Trump supporter certainly won’t disqualify him, although Democrats will claim that it does. But being prey to an obvious delusion, however well-intentioned, should.

I will have more to say about Donald Trump and his mostly positive legacy in days to come. For now, let’s leave it at this: Trump was justified in questioning the results of the election, and did a public service by highlighting the important issue of ballot integrity. But he led many of his supporters seriously astray when he propagated the idea that his lawsuits, some of which were frankly inept and all of which were hopeless, would miraculously give him a second term. Sometimes a president, like many others, needs to know where to find good legal advice.

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