In situations of crisis or grave difficulty, Trump displays three qualities, three spirits, that all redound against the movement that he leads. His spirit of authoritarianism creates a sense of perpetual crisis among his opponents, uniting left-wingers and liberals despite their differences. His spirit of chaos, the sense that nothing is planned or under control, turns moderates and normies against him. And finally his spirit of incompetence means that conservatives get far less out of his administration than they would from a genuine imperial president, a man of iron rather than of pasteboard.

You can see the convergence of these spirits in the disaster at Lafayette Park, where an authoritarian instinct led to a chaotic and violent police intervention, a massive media freakout, blowback from the military — and left the president with an impious photo op and control of six blocks around the White House to show for it.

That last image, the president as a dictator of an island and impotent beyond it, seems like a foretaste of what would await conservatives if Trump somehow slipped through to a second term. Maybe he would get to replace another Supreme Court justice — maybe. (In a Democratic Senate, not.) But everything else the right needs would slip further out of reach.