Mohler is hardly the only prominent voice to have supported Trump and subsequently condemned the violence. I pick on Mohler’s statement because he carries significant influence in the evangelical world; I take his response as indicative of how conservative and evangelical thought leaders are likely processing the events of the past week. Scores of other pundits are trying to explain to themselves how they got this wrong.
Every pundit presents himself as an authority on political and cultural analysis. They write thousands of words in columns, hundreds of thousands in books, and speak thousands more on podcasts and in interviews. Yet pundits who defended Trump before the riot claim that they could not have anticipated that Trump would turn out to disrespect democratic norms or incite mob violence—when other scholars, pundits, activists, and thinkers have been warning of exactly that for half a decade. We warned so often that our critics invented a label—Trump Derangement Syndrome—with which to dismiss us as a band of hysterical Chicken Littles.
To claim in January 2021 that one couldn’t know it would come to this, to act surprised when political violence happened, is an unconscionably self-serving act of gaslighting. To claim no one knew it could go this far is to willfully ignore and erase the history of everyone who warned it would go this far. Acting like it was impossible to foresee what happened is to pretend that we didn’t spend half a decade bickering over just how close to authoritarianism Trump was taking us.