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Trump's walkaway and all that he leaves behind

According to reports, in the early morning of Jan. 20, Donald Trump and his entourage will board Air Force One and depart Washington for Palm Beach. Pointedly, he will not be present for the mid-day inauguration of his successor. He has, however, requested that his departure from Joint Base Andrews be acknowledged by a military-style send-off to include a crowd of well-wishers. We’ll see.

But after four years of exhausting scandal, endless investigations, to-the-bone incompetence, and two impeachments, we will watch his government ride slowly ascend and vanish into the distance, heading south to a life we can only imagine.

His walkaway leaves behind a massive train wreck, made manifest by a still raging pandemic that daily kills thousands of Americans, has crippled our economy, and creates still a wake of damage and grief that is unimaginable.

Trump, sublime in his indifference, also leaves behind a transformed Republican Party, no longer the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower or even Reagan, and certainly not a party of policy or issues or country first; instead, one devoted to the acquisition of political power. If they don’t win, then the vote doesn’t count.

Their familiar strategy asserts that the Democrats have been radicalized and are a force hostile to democracy, while pointing toward last summer’s George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests.

In truth, as demonstrated on Jan. 6, it is the radicalized right that took to the streets and, incited by Trump and his lie of voter fraud, lay siege to the Capitol. Their nihilistic purpose was to prevent the congressional Electoral College vote count and thereby overturn what was irrefutably a free and fair election.

That “Big Lie” was supported, pre- and post-siege by 147 Republican members of the House and Senate, all knowing that “Stop The Steal” was a false-flag narrative and a sham. But so driven are they (Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy, et al.) by the acquisition of power that they would bring down our democracy, trash any semblance of a peaceful transition, and cast their vote with a self-evident lie, fully prepared to use a feral mob to achieve that end. If you have at your disposal a tribe of true believers, well, pander to their fears, stoke their fantasies of a malevolent “deep state, and leaven same with paranoia. Now make them the tip of the spear.

But then the Republicans have also cynically used the evangelicals while striking a Faustian bargain with their leadership, trading conservative judges for their pious support. Not surprising, their ilk appeared among the Capitol protestors carrying banners saying “Jesus 2020” some holding “Trump Won” crosses, others wearing arm patches that said “Armor of God.”

Clearly, the right has made use of fraudulent alternative facts and conspiracies, not out of belief, but as a means to an end. They have remained silent when the media was branded “fake”; twisted the meaning of “defund the police,” thereby eliminating any discussion regarding its meaning; promised that when Obamacare was repealed, they had a replacement; kept company with QAnon; and studiously ignored the Russians.

The Republican Party has never been a Trumpian cult of personality. It is a cult that now worships at the shrine of power, likely more akin in purpose to Trump and the self-serving organization he ran out of the Oval Office.

Of course, Trump didn’t just leave behind a political party, he left behind 74 million Americans who voted for him with eyes wide open. According to a post-Capitol siege poll, 84 percent of Republican voters approve of Trump and when asked said they do not hold him responsible for the Capitol takedown. But then, his base has its own shrine.

This, all of it, is the walkaway detritus from Trump’s tenure of chaos and mayhem, now left for those who remain behind to sort out.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.