We are living through a protracted reprise of that strange interlude from the stretch run of the 2016 presidential race, after the Access Hollywood tape came out—when Trump’s advisors, seeing him on the verge of being cut loose by mortified party officials and buried in a landslide, finally got him to shut up for a week or two. It was just long enough for the Republican Party to pull itself back together, and for the press, following its habit of balance, to go looking for Hillary Clinton scandals to cover. The Trump campaign went into that spell of silence wondering if its vice-presidential candidate might bail out and whether it might lose Texas; it came out of it positioned to win the presidency.
And so, with dread and regret, I’ve come around to believing what Trump himself so often said: that he alone can fix this. Our situation is monstrous. We need to see and hear the monster again.
During the Trump years—that is, the four or really five years when Trump was in the foreground—there was a true and accurate complaint that too many liberals wanted to treat him as a unique and unprecedented aberration, rather than a figure deeply rooted in our history and our political system. The real danger of Trump was always that he embodied social forces much larger and uglier than his own defective personality, and it was a mistake to imagine that getting rid of him would get rid of the problem.