When I talked to a Central Valley Rotary Club in November 2016, I assumed on arrival that such doctrinaire Republicans would be establishment Never Trumpers. But few were then. When I returned this week to speak again, I found that none are now. These businesspeople, lawyers, accountants and educators talked of the money-making economy. But I sensed, as with my hometown friends, that same something else. There was an edge in their voices, an amplification of earlier fury at Hillary’s condescension and put-down of deplorables. ‘Anything he dishes out, they deserve,’ one man in a tailored suit remarked, channeling my grade-school friend Steve. I take it by that he meant he and his friends are frequently embarrassed by Trump’s crudity — but not nearly so much as they are enraged by the sanctimoniousness of an Adam Schiff or the smug ‘bombshell’ monotony of media anchors.
It is easy to say that 2020 seems to be replaying 2016, complete with the identical insularity of progressives, as if what should never have happened then certainly cannot now. But this time around there is an even greater sense of anger and need for retribution especially among the most unlikely Trump supporters. It reflects a fed-up payback for three years of nonstop efforts to overthrow an elected president, anger at anti-Trump hysteria and weariness at being lectured. A year is a proverbial long time. The economy could tank. The president might find himself trading missiles with Iran. At 73, a sleep-deprived, hamburger-munching Trump might discover his legendary stamina finally giving out. Still, there is a growing wrath in the country, either ignored, suppressed or undetected by the partisan media. It is a desire for a reckoning with ‘them’. For lots of quiet, ordinary people, 2020 is shaping up as the get-even election — in ways that transcend even Trump himself.