You may not have had the pleasure of reading one Kurt Schlichter over the years. He’s a Trumpist blowhard columnist who writes popular dystopian novels about the looming red-blue civil war after a Democrat takeover, in a country where “all the sugary cereals that kids actually like” are banned and “there is simply one deodorant, called ‘Deodorant,’ which smells like wet cardboard and stains your shirt, blouse, or burqa.” He has replied to hostile tweets with the number “14” — a white supremacist code for the fourteen words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” One column was simply titled: “Buy Ammo.” I’ve read him for camp value most of the time, but also as a check-in with the truly culty right and their long, rather intense love affair with the former guy. Every time Trump said something truly grotesque, I’d see how Schlichter would react. Sure enough, every time without fail, from “pussy-grabbing” to “Stop The Steal!,” it was unremitting, fellatial, cringe-inducing worship. But last week, something happened. His DMs and texts, he told us, “exploded” — “I mean, they went the full Nagasaki” — with fury at Trump for helping the Republicans bungle the midterms. And the anger came not from the usual “Never Trump sissies or establishment shills,” as he lovingly describes them, but from inside the house.
Not to worry: Schlichter still wants Trump to run for the nomination in 2024, and performed a few gymnastic stunts to defend him. But the bottom line was pretty simple and utterly new: “Some folks are a bit sensitive when the subject of the ex-president comes up. Get over it. He works for us. We owe Trump nothing. He’s a politician. He owes us.” Then, just as his readers were gripping their iPhone with ever-whiter knuckles, he lowered the boom: “I do not see a clear path for Trump to get to 270 electoral votes in the general as of today.” Yes he has that “as of today” qualification, but this was a little like Nigel Farage suddenly having a nice thing to say about Albanians.
All my liberal friends refuse to believe it. And I understand. I assumed the worst as well. Still quivering wrecks after years of Trump’s psychological abuse, this regiment of Reeks assumed a red wave, whatever the polls said, and couldn’t quite absorb that we’d actually witnessed a red wedding. Now many tell themselves that this unexpected relief from the Trump nightmare cannot last, that he’ll regroup, that this is yet another quiet moment in the movie, to be followed by Trump suddenly springing back to life like Glenn Close in the bathtub in Fatal Attraction.
But then a Club for Growth poll of Republican primary voters showed Florida governor Ron DeSantis suddenly vaulting past Trump in voter preferences. In Georgia, a must-win state for a Republican nominee, DeSantis led Trump by six points in August. Now he is ahead 57-37 percent. The same story can be told in Iowa and New Hampshire. Other polls were less striking — in Texas, DeSantis led Trump 43-32 percent — but they all gave DeSantis at least a third of the primary vote, and no one else was in the mix. The latter is the most important. The way Trump won in 2016 was by splitting the opposition into fragments so that no single individual could rival him.
And it’s not just the right that’s moderating. In Congress, the members of the “Squad” — the most radical of the left Democrats — saw their majorities tumble. The racial tribal divide began to decline, as more Asian and Latino voters switched to the Republicans, especially in red states. And for the second time, the New York Times actually reported this week — at great length — on the growing concern about fast-track sex changes for children. In the US, the media have long regarded any worries about “gender-affirming care” as self-evident “hate” and dismissed them. But almost overnight, the NYT has lurched back to the center on the question, unafraid of the social media backlash, at a time when Twitter itself appears to be losing altitude. This is, shall we say, encouraging.
As the world staggers back toward normal, pragmatic politics in a scary climate, we’ve said goodbye to Bolsonaro and Boris, and seen almost no objections to the votes cast in Brazil or the US. And in the relief of seeing democracy reassert itself, a new question beckons: could we rid ourselves of Trump and Twitter all at once as well? We can hope, can’t we?
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the World edition here.