Our Constitutional crisis is due to Donald Trump. And Donald Trump alone.
“Frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” – former veep Mike Pence.
There is a tendency, and I understand it, to view the crisis of democratic legitimacy in this country as multi-determined. The rank failure of elites this century, the intellectual barrenness of the pre-Trump GOP, the ever-further radicalization of the left, along with the cultural impacts of mass immigration and free trade, all count as contributing factors. You can tell the story in many different ways, with varying emphases, and assignations of blame.
But this complexity misses something important — the contingent importance of individuals in human history. And the truth is: we would not be where we are now without Donald Trump, and Donald Trump alone. He is unique in American history, a president who told us in advance he would never accept any election result that showed him losing, and then proved it. He tried to overturn the transfer of power to his successor by threats and violence. No president in history has ever done such a thing — betrayed and violated the core of our republic — from Washington’s extraordinary example onwards. The stain of Trump is as unique as it is indelible.
Without Trump, January 6 would never have happened. It was his idea, and his alone. No one in his closest inner circle believed he had won the election on November 3. They all knew that the Trump presidency was “the rotten carcass of a boat, not rigg’d, / Nor tackle, sail, nor mast.” None of them would have attempted to keep it afloat.
And, thanks to the January 6 Committee, we now know this for certain. Mike Pence, his vice president, didn’t believe Trump had won, let alone by a landslide — for which he was targeted to be hanged by the mob Trump gathered. (A new detail: Trump — after the violence had already broken out — incited the mob against Pence directly, and they surged to get within 40 feet of him.)