NEW YORK — Now his failure is complete.
President Donald Trump finally admitted defeat in the dark, early hours of Thursday morning, after Congress formally certified Joe Biden’s election as the next president of the United States.
Biden will take the oath on Jan. 20 and Trump, after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, finally pledged that there will be an orderly transition of power to a Biden administration. (Trump won’t be on hand: he stated Friday he won’t attend Biden’s inauguration.)
Talk about a day late and a dollar short!
But as bad as all of that is, Trump’s failure goes much deeper than that.
In their zeal to breach the Capitol and wreak havoc on the very seat of American power, Trump protestors failed to realize that their actions actually undermined Trump’s final legal opportunity — slim as it was — to challenge the election results. A number of senators were poised to carry those challenges forward.
Until the carnage and chaos at the Capitol, that is. Until lawmakers had to flee the House and Senate chambers in order to escape the mob.
Not that anything would have changed. The nation was spared endless hours of pointless debate over Electoral College slates and state election protocols. But the deed was done: Biden won the election and Trump lost.
If Trump supporters think that the election was stolen, through computer software shenanigans, fraudulent mail-in voting or illegal vote harvesting, then they need to get to the bottom of that before the next presidential election. Either fix the problems or, frankly, learn how to pursue elections under the new political dynamics of early and mail-in voting.
It didn’t have to be this way for Trump. He could have accepted the defeat and moved on. He’d had his day in court. Many days. He’d petitioned the Supreme Court. His objections found no traction. He could have taken the high road out of town and started laying plans for 2024.
But Trump has always failed to realize that he’s not bigger than the presidency itself. U.S. history is littered with people who’ve lost presidential elections, have failed to be re-elected to the office, or who failed to win nominations.
What makes Trump think he’s special? That he somehow looms larger in American history? There have been plenty of hinky presidential elections where someone likely got screwed out of the White House: 2000, 1960, 1876, 1800.
Trump rode into office pledging to drain the swamp. But as he leaves, the Washington establishment that he targeted is fully restored to power.
The Biden team is littered with retreads from President Barack Obama’s administration. The mainstream media speaks louder than ever. Footage of the Capitol chaos will be endlessly replayed as a cautionary tale of what happens when we let an outsider, a non-politician, an amateur, and their attendant rabble into the White House.
It’s the Trump brand that has been damaged. And at the same time, he’s given his political enemies a bigger cudgel than they had before.
It’s perhaps fitting that Trump also leaves the Republican Party in tatters on his way out the door.
The GOP establishment never fully embraced Trump, and Trump voters abhor insider types like Sens. Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, considering them part and parcel of the Washington swamp problem.
It’s that GOP establishment that’s now in deep trouble, and not just because they fumbled away control of the Senate — and Trump certainly had a hand in the Georgia losses himself. The GOP insiders are in trouble because while Trump may be finished, at least for now, Trumpism isn’t.
There are still masses of voters out there who are receptive to Trump’s outsider, populist, anti-Washington message. And still more who rolled the dice with Trump but came to abhor all the narcissism and chaos.
Those voters are now up for grabs.
After Watergate, people said that a Republican would never get elected president again. Ronald Reagan was elected just six years later.
It could happen again. Or the GOP could go the way of the Whigs and people will flock to a new party.
Trump has changed the country in so many ways. Just not in the ways he promised to. And that’s all on him.
(Tom Wrobleski is a columnist for the Staten Island Advance.)