In his Sunday column last week (“Chaos ensues after Trump’s term”), James Buckley laid out an impressive list of accomplishments of the former president.
I agree with Mr. Buckley that Donald Trump was a consequential president, who fearlessly pursued domestic and foreign policy goals that resulted in a stronger, more prosperous and safer country than the one he inherited. However, Mr. Buckley did not adequately focus on the personality flaws of President Trump, which tragically contributed to his election defeat and ultimately flipped the Congress to Democratic control.
Mr. Buckley made passing reference to Mr. Trump talking and tweeting too much. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do justice to how President Trump was often his own worst enemy. It wasn’t necessarily the volume of tweets that did him in, but his compulsive need to have all the attention focused on him, even when it wasn’t in his best interest.
President Trump must be a very insecure person to need constant attention, positive or otherwise. He seemingly relished being the eye of every political storm that came his way, like a lightning rod attracting every fireball streaking across the sky.
This unnecessarily spawned more enemies than he needed and drove millions of Americans into the opposition camp, including voters who previously may have been less doctrinaire or vehement in their attitudes about politics. Some of it would have been present no matter how peculiar his personality, but there is no question the former president greatly exacerbated the level of resistance, to a degree I have never before seen.
Among the many character flaws of Mr. Trump, the most disturbing is how he delineated friends or foes by how much they groveled to him. Anyone critical of anything Mr. Trump did provoked a furious attack from the president totally disproportionate to the criticism, no matter how true the critique may have been. Rather than take it as an opportunity to learn from it, he verbally assaulted the individual with a relish that many found cringeworthy. I try to avoid people like this in my personal life.
This potpourri of character flaws is most problematic in what it’s doing to the Republican Party and all the people in this country looking for an alternative to the incompetent group in charge of our government today.
Mr. Trump’s inability to accept his election loss and his endless need to viciously attack any Republican or erstwhile supporter (including his former vice president and the current Senate minority leader), who do not share his absolute conviction that he was cheated out of winning the election, is causing a deep fissure in the Republican Party, and more importantly, a profound cynicism among his ardent supporters, who believe they have been disenfranchised because of rampant voter fraud.
We are seeing the consequences of Mr. Trump’s inability to move past his election defeat with the defeat of the two Republican senators in Georgia’s runoff, thereby giving control of the Senate to Democrats. President Trump campaigned in Georgia twice, offering support for the two incumbents. However, rather than stay on message, he assailed the Republican leaders in Georgia after he lost the state in November and told his supporters their votes would be nullified because of widespread cheating. Many Trump voters stayed home, providing the other side with the margin of victory that caused Republicans to lose two very winnable elections.
The question is: Can Donald Trump act as a unifying presence in the Republican Party and will he use his considerable influence to galvanize his troops and expand the base to take back Congress and the presidency? The ideal leader of the Republican Party today would have Mr. Trump’s instincts and fearless approach in pursuit of far-reaching policies and Ronald Reagan’s leadership qualities. Does such a person exist?
For the sake of the country, let’s hope so.
The writer lives in Santa Barbara.