Trump never pivoted, of course, but he was the president, so he got to decide what was presidential. And that meant four years of unrelenting middle-finger politics — a style that had been growing at the edges of Republican politics, but which Trump took to a new extreme, with all the power of the White House to amplify it. He trashed popular enemies like John McCain and John Lewis while pardoning extremist supporters like Dinesh D’Souza and Joe Arpaio; he bashed democratic allies like Canada and Germany, while embracing monstrous dictators in North Korea and Russia. He defied the scientific warnings about climate change and the coronavirus and looking directly at an eclipse. He got impeached for trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, then publicly urged China to dig up dirt on Biden. When his former aides got indicted, which happened often, he defended them; when his former aides denounced him as unfit to lead, which happened even more often, he bullied them. When fact-checkers called out his fictions, which happened daily, he unapologetically repeated the fictions, over and over.

Through it all, his loyal supporters remained loyal. They loved how he skewered the liberals and immigrants and condescending eggheads they resented. They love his unrestrained war on Blue America, his portrayal of Democrats as effete traitors and Democratic states as foreign adversaries. They didn’t mind his brazen flip-flops and swashbuckling lies — claiming credit for laws passed before his presidency, libeling bureaucrats who testified about his transgressions, calling all kinds of real things hoaxes — because they believed he spoke a larger truth, or at least that he was lying on their behalf…

Nov. 3 might go down in history as a revolution against all the drama. While Trump’s great-again message evoked a certain kind of nostalgia for an America before diversity workshops and gender-neutral bathrooms, Biden evokes a different kind of nostalgia for an older brand of politics. He is a throwback pol who actually believes what long-ago Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield taught him about seeing the good side in extremist adversaries like Jesse Helms. He is a moderate pragmatist who actually believes in the art of the deal, which is why current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted on negotiating with him during the Obama administration, rather than enduring lectures from Barack Obama himself.