Sad, predictable outcome of having a toddler-in-chief as US president

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump greets the crowd at the "Stop The Steal" Rally o

President Donald Trump greets the crowds in Washington on January 6 before his supporters stormed the Capitol Building - Credit: Getty Images

Norwich-based US politics commentator Adam Aiken gives his take on Donald Trump’s presidency

The initial shock of seeing members of the US Congress cowering for safety while police in the Senate chamber have their guns drawn and aimed at the door has worn off now.

Donald Trump has since been impeached for a second time. Waves of arrests have been made across the country. Security has been tightened ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

But things in the supposed Land of the Free remain far from normal. There are more US troops on the streets in Washington ahead of the inauguration than there are serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined. The TV images make it look more like some kind of tin-pot military dictatorship than the shining light of democracy that it should be.

How did it come to this?

If you watch the coverage of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, you don’t have to look very hard to find interviews with otherwise normal people who believe fervently that the November election was stolen from Trump. The passion they show and the absolute certainly in their belief hasn’t just appeared since Biden beat Trump.

It has been building up for years.

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Trump has flipped-flopped politically throughout his life. The only thing that has remained constant is his narcissism.

He was not a natural Republican. When he was running for president, he knew he didn’t stand a chance intellectually against the likes of the conservative Ted Cruz or the more moderate John Kasich and Jeb Bush.

So he resorted to playing the shock card. He promised to build a wall along the Mexican border. He’d lock up his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. He mocked US prisoners of war and disabled people. He was openly abusive towards women. And he attacked the media.

That last point seemed fair game to many. What does it matter if the egos of a few journalists get hurt during the political rough and tumble?

The problem was that it didn’t stop there. Trump made it a mainstay of not just his campaign but also his presidency. He tweeted a meme of him beating up someone whose head depicted the CNN logo. He egged on crowds to boo the journalists covering his rallies, and said he’d pay their legal bills if they were arrested.

He used the term “fake news” and encouraged his followers to watch only those channels that supported him.

So the feedback-loop of mutual loving began. A few news outlets began to pander to Trump. They knew he would be nice to them in return, they would secure interviews at the White House, and Trump’s supporters would be driven into their arms.

Fox News became Trump’s cheerleader in chief. The president could do anything and the channel would lap it up. Trump would call into the station day and night and give rambling interviews, and even his most unhinged claims would remain unchallenged. The sycophantic hosts would forget any semblance of journalistic curiosity they’d ever had and would just fawn over their god.

Trump would speak only to Fox, and he’d watch only Fox. He believed them and they believed him. His supporters found a home there, and soon all they heard was pro-Trump propaganda. The rest of the media continued to hold Trump to account, but his fans weren’t watching those channels.

Smaller networks began to join in. One America News spouts all sorts of conspiracy theories that are music to the ears of Trump. Newsmax is another emerging player.

Both of them at times manage to make even Fox’s support for Trump look lukewarm.

Other Republicans quickly fell into line because a single tweet from Trump questioning someone’s loyalty would lead to an avalanche of hate directed at his target. His former party rivals lacked the backbone to stick to their principles.

The likes of Cruz and Senator Lindsey Graham (who had previously called the president a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot”) didn’t just tone down their criticism of him but became his adoring disciples – repeating his conspiracy theories and defending his outrageous behaviour.

By the time we got to the November presidential election, there was a huge constituency of people across America that believed Trump when he said the only way he could lose would be if the poll was fraudulent.

After all, their favourite news channels kept repeating this nonsense, so it must be true, mustn’t it?

So when Trump lost, what happened next was predictable. He refused to accept defeat. His supporters accepted without question the idea that the rest of the world was part of the conspiracy. And when the president repeatedly urged them to fight for him, of course some of them were going to take it literally. They’d been waiting for the order.

Former FBI director James Comey – one of many officials fired by Trump simply because he wasn’t sycophantic enough – told Sky News yesterday that he’d “never seen an adult with a greater hunger for affirmation than Donald Trump”, adding: “I’ve seen it in two-year-olds and three-year-olds.” In other words, the American president is a toddler.

But he’s a toddler whose tantrums have been indulged by his enablers – and, as every parent knows, when you give into tantrums, they only get worse.

So while the recent events in Washington were shocking, that it came to this should be far from a surprise.