The prevailing wisdom in the run up to the 2020 presidential election was that we must not only win but win by a huge margin in order to get Trump to concede. Even Hillary Clinton said as much. I disputed this claim back then, not because I’m imbued with exceptional wisdom, but because of my exceptional experience with narcissists. I’ve had the distinct misfortune of having lived with two of them at separate points in my life. As a result of my experience my position then and my position now remains unchanged: Trump will never concede no matter what. It’s not what narcissists do.
But now I’m going to say something that might surprise you. The intractable stubbornness and the seemingly supernatural ability for narcissists to sustain a cognitive dissonance when their egos are on the line is far from the worst of it. It’s their spear carriers, the people willing to prop them up, that makes narcissism so awful. Otherwise narcissists just look like garden variety delusional idiots that everybody laughs at. But the truly insidious part of narcissism comes from their support groups.
Of their supporters there are two kinds, active and passive. When it comes to Trump his active supporters are too easy to spot. They’re the red-hated, red-necked, flag-waving droolers, the cretins, the Dunning-Kruger poster children. The passive ones are the suited and booted “intellectuals,” the sideliners who behave as if it’s been obvious all along to everyone that Trump lost the election and nothing much more than that needed to be said.
By now you’ve probably figured out I’m talking about the Mitt Romneys and the Mike Rounds and the Kevin Kramers and the Asa Hutchinsons and the Brian Kilmeades and yes, even the Mitch McConnells of the Republican Party. They’re among the Republicans who know perfectly well, together with the ex-veep, (let us not forget Mike Pence) that Donald Trump didn’t just lose, he lost in a big way. He lost decisively and convincingly. Donald Trump is a loser. These passive supporters pretended not to understand what all the fuss was about so they kept relatively quiet about it.
The harm they’ve done by remaining relatively quiet has been incalculable. It has helped to make other outrages, like the storming of the Capitol and the ensuing insurrection appear normal. It is not condemned with the vigor it deserves.
Had the attack on the Capitol been carried out by foreigners we would have probably experienced a brief but palpable surge of unity, as happened after 9/11. Instead it created an even deeper divide. Instead of being shouted down and denounced as traitors, people like Ted Cruz and Matt Gaetz and Tucker Carlson were allowed to sustain the absurd narrative that January 6th wasn’t so bad, or that it was a false flag operation carried out by the Deep State supported by Democrats.
Don’t get me wrong here, such a narrative would have happened anyway. For example, 9/11 “Trutherism” is still a thing among fringe groups. But they’re consigned to the lunatic fringe where they belong. Nobody with a brain believes that nonsense and it’s roundly dismissed where it counts, in newsrooms and among the cognoscenti. It has no real traction in government. But the Big Lie and the false flag narrative about the insurrection does have traction.
It seems appropriate to take a page from their own holy book to condemn them. From the book of Revelation it says, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” The lukewarm Republicans who are stepping up to the plate and denouncing the Big Lie have been far too tepid in the past, especially given what’s at stake.
This recent timorous venture into the sunlight by some Republicans is probably motivated by the new reality that Trumpism isn’t any longer wholly dependent upon Trump. Because Trump is losing a lot of his power, Republicans are discovering that you can defy Donald Trump now and again without losing your place in the Trumpism hierarchy. If they think they deserve a medal for heroism then they can think again. They remain what they have always been, cowards and political opportunists. 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.