Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney spoke at the Reagan Library on Wednesday. In her speech she enunciated her Republican creed, which consisted of small government, low taxes and a strong defense. In short, she reminded the largely Republican crowd that the Grand Old Party at one time had an actual platform — beyond a penchant for theocratic fascism and “owning the libs.”
The audience remained quiet and respectful throughout Cheney’s speech. Then she said this: “The reality that we face today as Republicans, as we think about the choice in front of us, we have to choose, because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.” That was the point that the audience broke into spontaneous applause.
Then there’s the New York Post, which until recently had been an unshakeable proponent of Donald Trump. It reversed its position last Sunday in a scathing editorial that called the outgoing US president “insane” and a “tragic King Lear figure.” They implored Trump to end the “dark charade” of attacking a clearly legitimate and democratic election.
Even Fox News took the decision to start covering the January 6 Committee hearings, and some of their talking heads are beginning to see the light. Legal analyst Johnathan Turley, National Review columnist Andy McCarthy and members of the Fox anchor team appear to be jumping the Trump ship.
The social zeitgeist is clearly shifting away from Donald Trump today, much in the way it shifted away from Wisconsin Senator and communist-baiter Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s after the Army-McCarthy hearings. The reaction to Cheney’s speech is a palpable and measurable barometer of that change. A year ago Liz Cheney’s line that got the applause at the Reagan Library would have been met with stony silence. Five years ago she would have garnered open scorn and booing. Seven years ago no one would have known what the hell she was talking about.
The problem isn’t so much that many Republicans loved Donald Trump because he is evil. The problem is they loved him because they didn’t understand that he was evil. The revelations of the January 6 Committee are changing minds. People are seeing that Trump people who worked at the White House came to believe that Trump was unfit for office — and it’s having a predictable and measurable effect.
It will be interesting to gauge what kind of effect this shift in the political landscape will have on the likes of Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy. Will McCarthy cynically and (at first) subtly start to back away from Trump and Trumpism, escalating to a crescendo of repudiation? We’ll have to stay tuned for that.
But there will come a point when those who remain firmly in the Trump camp must tacitly acknowledge that he is evil, and that they love him because he’s evil. For such people Trump’s evil isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Such people will always remain beyond redemption. They will simply crawl back into the woodwork if and when Donald Trump goes to prison. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.