In 2016, months before Trump was elected, Maureen Dowd says she realized Trump is kind of bloodthirsty. In an interview, she "asked him about the brutish rhetoric and violence at his rallies and the way he goaded supporters to hate on journalists and rough up protesters. Even then Mitch McConnell was urging Trump to ratchet down the ferocity.
I told Trump that I had not seen this side of him before and that he was going down a very dark path. With his denigrating mockery of rivals and critics, he had already taken politics to a vulgar place, and now it was getting more dangerous.
Shouldn’t parents be able to bring children to rallies without worrying about obscenities, sucker punches, brawls and bullying, I wondered?
He brushed off the questions and blithely assessed the savage mood at his rallies: “Frankly, it adds a little excitement.”
A couple weeks later, I pressed him again on his belligerence and divisiveness, and, with utter candor, he explained why he was turning up the heat.
“I guess because of the fact that I immediately went to No. 1 and I said, why don’t I just keep the same thing going?” he said. “I’ve come this far in life. I’ve had great success. I’ve done it my way.” He added, “You know, there are a lot of people who say, ‘Don’t change.’”
Stating the obvious, she reminded her readers that he didn't. "Trump," she wrote, "never cared about law and order or the cops. He was thrilled that he could unleash his mob on the Capitol and its guardians, with rioters smearing blood and feces and yelling Trump’s words and going after his targets-- Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. It was Manson family-chilling to watch the House impeachment managers’ video with a rioter hunting for the House speaker, calling out: 'Where are you, Nancy? We’re looking for you, Na-a-ncy. Oh, Na-a-ncy.' It was like watching his vicious Twitter feed come alive. Others were chanting 'Hang Mike Pence!' even as a gallows, complete with noose, was erected on the lawn. Watching those shivery videos, it hit home how Pelosi and Pence could have been killed and the melee could have turned into a far worse blood bath. Trump not caring about the fate of his vice president was the inevitable sick end of the pairing of the Sociopath and the Sycophant."
Concluding, she noted that "Certainly, opportunism has always run rampant in Congress. But most Republicans, who continue to tremble before Trump even though he devoured and destroyed their party, turning its traditional values upside down, are plumbing new cowardly depths. They are mini-Trumps, making decisions solely on self-interest... These dreadful Republicans are all Falstaffs, trampling the concept of honor, blowing it off as a mere airy-fairy word, not worth sacrificing anything for, not worth defending your country for. “Honor is a mere scutcheon,” Falstaff scoffed. McConnell and the other craven Republicans realize now that they should not have played along with Trump as long as they did, while he undermined the election. But they still refuse to hold him accountable because he controls their voters."
Yesterday, by voting to acquit, McConnell and 42 other Republican senators have condemned their own party, which is now viewed by many as a cult. Alexander Burns wrote last night that "The vote stands as a pivotal moment for the party Mr. Trump molded into a cult of personality, one likely to leave a deep blemish in the historical record. Now that Republicans have passed up an opportunity to banish him through impeachment, it is not clear when-- or how-- they might go about transforming their party into something other than a vessel for a semiretired demagogue who was repudiated by a majority of voters. Defeated by President Biden, stripped of his social-media megaphone, impeached again by the House of Representatives and accused of betraying his oath by a handful of Republican dissenters, Mr. Trump nonetheless remains the dominant force in right-wing politics. Even offline and off camera at his Palm Beach estate, and offering only a feeble impeachment defense through his legal team in Washington, the former president continues to command unmatched admiration from conservative voters."
After campaigning last year on a message of law and order, most Republican lawmakers decided not to apply those standards to a former commander in chief who made common cause with an organized mob. A party that often proclaimed that “Blue lives matter” balked at punishing a politician whose enraged supporters had assaulted the Capitol Police. A generation’s worth of rhetoric about personal responsibility appeared to founder against the perceived imperative of accommodating Trump.
Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution scholar and policy adviser to a number of prominent Republican officials, said the G.O.P. would need to redefine itself as a governing party with ambitions beyond fealty to a single leader.
“When the conservative movement, when the Republican Party, have been successful, it’s been as a party of ideas,” Mr. Chen said, lamenting that much of the party was still taking a Trump-first approach.
“Many Republicans are more focused on talking about him than about what’s next,” he said. “And that’s a very dangerous place to be.”
...Trump’s tenure as an agent of political chaos is almost certainly not over. The former president and his advisers have already made it plain that they intend to use the 2022 midterm elections as an opportunity to reward allies and mete out revenge to those who crossed Mr. Trump. And hanging over the party is the possibility of another run for the White House in three years.
It remains to be seen how aggressively the party’s leadership will seek to counter him. Mr. McConnell has told associates that he intends to wage a national battle in 2022 against far-right candidates and to defend incumbents targeted by Mr. Trump.
But by declining to convict Mr. Trump on Saturday, Mr. McConnell invited skepticism about how willing he might be to wage open war against Mr. Trump on the campaign trail.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ridiculed Mr. McConnell for his ambivalent position after his floor speech, calling his remarks “disingenuous” and speculating that he had delivered them for the benefit of his financial backers who dislike Trump.
The vote by Republicans to acquit Trump, she said in a statement, was among the “most dishonorable acts in our nation’s history.”