Wednesday 6th January 2021 - a day that shocked the world and troubled the conscience of America. The President said he would lead his supporters to march on the capital. Trump had, for two months, falsely claimed the election was stolen. It was not. He lost because Joe Biden was a man both progressives and moderates could claim was one of their own. Why? In part because Biden did not have to answer any serious questions throughout the campaign and for many, Biden was a return to normality.
Let me be upfront: I wanted Trump to win. Before Covid-19, the American economy was performing well, unemployment was down and wages were rising. He was the first president in over forty years not to start any wars, he signed executive orders on free speech, protected due process on college campuses and even called out some in the media for their bias in favour of the Democratic Party.
But then a global pandemic hit and the awful death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers led many to question Trump’s actions.
I watched as people I respect in the American Republican Party and wider conservative movement morph into some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters, desperately searching for some escape from this electoral reality. Was there electoral fraud? Of course, as there is a small level in every presidential election. Though, there was never enough to have actually tipped the result.
What angers me most is that President Trump’s baseless claims cost Republicans the Senate. The actions of Trump’s supporters at the capitol were not those of patriots or conservatives, but deluded tribalists. And worse still, some ‘liberals’ and left-wingers are able to tar all conservatives with the same brush.
The reaction of many British commentators was predictable. I believe those who spent the last three years opposed to Brexit, have no standing to criticise others for failing to respect popular mandates. I believe in respecting the will of the people and that is why I congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their victory. But if Trump is a threat to democracy because he refuses to accept a popular decision, what does that make those who oppose Brexit?
I think Republicans must wake up to the fact the party must work to move on from Donald Trump, but that ‘Trumpism’ is here to stay. Trump’s support rose in every group except white men. The Republican Party is more diverse than ever and more minority and female conservatives now hold elected office. The GOP made gains in the House and almost kept the Senate. Republicans also made gains at the state level and for that, Trump deserves some credit.
To me, the GOP must return to Reagan Republicanism. As a conservative, I admit I enjoyed President Trump’s stance against “progressive wokeism”. But Trump in many ways emboldened a radical left and then gave them the keys to the full legislature and executive. He used his platform not as a unifying force, but to play the identity politics game of us vs them. In many ways, I think Trump was a good president and I’ll stand by that, but his actions in the last few months of his presidency tar a legacy that he could have been proud of. I hope we can all agree that no new wars and significant criminal justice reform were good things.
Trump’s false claims about a stolen election, coupled with an attack on the seat of American democracy demonstrate the need to end the tribalism which has taken over the West in recent years. Otherwise, we may never escape the web in which our body politic has become so entangled.
Bradley is a Burkean Conservative and Associate Editor at Liberal Base. His interest are in tribalism, relationship of liberty and order, western political parties and the rise of China.You can follow him on twitter @burkeansmithite
Image credit: (AP)