The second reason Trump lost is that conservatives never tried to check his immorality. They rationalized, excused, enabled and ultimately celebrated it. For Trump’s presidency to have had even a faint chance of succeeding, he needed his allies and fellow travelers to provide reality checks and expressions of disapproval, including occasions of outright revolt. What he mainly got was an echo chamber.
The process began before Trump’s election, when conservative pundits thrilled to the idea that Trump’s serial violations of moral and ethical norms were signs of strength and authenticity, as opposed to simple depravity. Just as ignorance was strength in George Orwell’s “1984,” shamelessness became virtue in Trump’s G.O.P. The strategy of moral inversion appeared to be vindicated four years ago, since none of Trump’s successive scandals prevented his victory.
In Trump’s conservative universe, nearly everyone became a lickspittle. Among his fervent supporters, or those who drew better ratings or poll numbers from his presidency, this was at least understandable. They had TV careers to preserve, political jobs to fill, a cult leader to worship.