David Frum, writing of Trump & Trumpism in The Conservative Cult of Victimhood, observes that
There is no redemption without repentance. There is no repentance without accountability. There is no accountability without consequences.
He rightly concludes that for the Trumpists, the absence of a moral order of accountability and repentance has meant that
Even as Trump commits one constitutional, legal, and ethical abuse after another, his followers depict themselves as somehow the people truly suffering unfairness. Trump was a perpetrator who thought himself a victim, and American society has indulged that same illusion among Trump supporters.
Long before Trump, even the smallest cities – like Whitewater – indulged grandiose claims, sham statistics, and dodgy data from a few key officials and a few like-minded residents. These were small-minded men and women who reacted as though a critique of public policy were an attack on the Sistine Chapel.
Every political booster’s flimsy claim only lessened respect for quality and truth. One looks back on the time immediately before the Great Recession in 2007, and sees that key public figures in Whitewater pushed flimsy policy claims unworthy of a second-rate high-school debate team. Their inadequacies paved the way for worse: they inured the community to lesser standards and degraded conditions, while praising their own roles in doing so.
Officials from that time – from towns across rural America, truly – may wail that they would never have wanted Trumpism. Perhaps. It is enough to know that their own departures from quality and truth – though their self-promotion of mediocre work – smoothed the path for a far worse movement of lies and fantasies.