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.
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 realized 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: their reactionary 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: “Donald Trump has transformed America. The election is gone, Trump is still there …. Trump’s huge vote and the 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 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 larger, to finish millions ahead. And although there was a 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 president in American history to lose office after just one term – the last 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 through at least the next two years.
And the man himself is not going anywhere – except to the courts, in which he threatens to keep litigating until the last complaint can be dragged in front of the last judge, whom he himself has just appointed.
So 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 rerun in 2024.
Absurd, obviously – assuming he is still alive, surely the symptoms of senile dementia will be too blatant for even the most boneheaded Republicans (and some are seriously cerebrally ossified) to ignore.
Except that they did, not just once, but twice. And in that sense, Trump may not have won this time, but 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