Monuments to a Loser, or the Second Lost Cause
One frequent and inescapable sight on the rural roads of New Hampshire is the Trump campaign sign. In every town, there are Trump campaign signs flanking the ends of driveways. Huge Trump/Pence billboards are proudly hoisted over the signs for legitimate businesses, presumably by the owners themselves. Trump flags—and the occasional anti-Biden flag—hang limply from the front of houses; some of them are accompanied by the MAGA battle flag: the black-and-blue parody of the Stars and Stripes. This is unusual. Trump lost almost a year ago. In every other election I have lived through, all the campaign signs came down in short order. But in 2021, in every town I drive through, I pass by monument after monument to the loser.
Celebrating a win for too long is gauche and sad. Mourning a loss, however old, is noble. This is especially true when that loss neatly dovetails into an even greater loss that the MAGA movement clearly draws its inspiration from: The Lost Cause. They both stem from the very same great lies: “this [thing I don’t like] isn’t fair” and “my humiliation is your humiliation.”
It is too soon to know if The Big Lie will have the weight and longevity of The Lost Cause. It seems likely, though, that The Big Lie will simply get folded into The Lost Cause, remembered as yet another indignity in a long line. In that way, it can last, essentially, forever.
Those Trump campaign signs can stay up forever, too, even after the former president runs again in 2024, retires from public life, or dies. I think that it would be a mistake to extend sympathy to the sore losers who leave them there, because what they believe—that they were cheated by a clean democratic election—undermines the American ideals of representative democracy, equal protection, and law and order.
The Big Lie is not going away, at least not anytime soon. It has embedded itself as the base of the Republican platform. You will see politicians run on it in 2022. The mid-term elections are going to be rough, and will merely set the table for the circus that will be the next presidential election season. We are in for a difficult couple of years ahead.