And yet the same federal system that enabled Trump contained him; some of the very judges he appointed turned down his absurd efforts to overthrow an election he had lost. He did not try to censor the press, because even he realized that he would fail. Local Republican officials stared down national leaders and ranting mobs to certify results they personally disliked. There were no Trump generals as there were no Clinton or Obama or Bush generals, because by and large the United States does not produce partisan serving officers. And when the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made a misstep—in D.C.’s Lafayette Park in June—they quickly, sincerely, and profoundly apologized for having done so. It is inconceivable that on January 21, anyone other than Joe Biden will be president of the United States.
And if the shocks created the conditions for this disruption, they create the conditions for recovery. We underestimate how much of the bloodcurdling passions of the moment are the result of Americans—a restless, striving, mobile bunch—having been confined for almost a year. Anyone running a large organization has seen how normal quirks, resentments, and even pathologies have been magnified by the pandemic. But it is coming to an end. The vaccines promise to have the coronavirus in full retreat within six months.
Then, if history is any guide, people will be too busy building (or rebuilding) businesses, catching up on education, and partying to obsess about politics. Donald Trump will be a distraction to the main story of economic, educational, and health recovery. Americans will have stuff to do, and that is, ultimately, what most of us prefer to political agitation. Even when, as happened so often in the past, many people are swept up by political passion, we know that eventually those emotions abate, and Americans will get on with their lives.