The only way Trump stays front and center is if Democrats put him there

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He has finished himself off. The mammoth has caught his foot in the tar, and soon nothing will be left but the archaeology. Trump’s presidency is over. His so-called movement is in tatters. His devoted spaniel Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was hounded through an airport by duped Trumpists screaming “traitor!” Vice President Pence, Trump’s panting poodle, hunkered behind bodyguards at the Capitol as a mob bayed for his blood. That’s what service to Trump gets you. Only a fool would mistake his anchor chain for a kite string now.

Ruin awaits him. The king of social media has been de-platformed, and the once-gilded Trump brand stands for shattered glass, battered police officers — one fatally — and human feces tracked across marble floors. The Trump flag flies over phalanxes in body armor, spouting nonsense and threats, while brandishing rifles, handguns, stun guns and bear-repellent spray in gatherings across the country.

Banks have closed their windows to him, as massive debts loom near. A grand jury in New York has begun gathering evidence for a potential felony prosecution. And his dearest post-presidential ambition — to have the major championships of golf played on courses bearing his name — is dead. The Professional Golfers’ Association has scrapped plans to play the 2022 PGA Championship at the Trump course in Bedminster, N.J. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club in Scotland has shot down the idea that its venerable Open Championship will be played at Turnberry as long as Trump owns it.

No doubt, Trump thinks this is just another twist in the self-orchestrated melodrama of his life, and a particular twist at that. This is not a man who understands the power of personal redemption through atonement or apology. The only path back that his imagination can perceive is through conflict: Trump the victim, Trump against his enemies, Trump triumphant. Imagine that Trump is a plummeting elevator car. Only friction can arrest his plunge.

Given the spectacle of his self-immolation, no ordinary foil will do. Trump needs his co-stars from past epic battles — the same Democrats he fought through an election, an impeachment and another election, the one he couldn’t bear to end. To borrow a phrase, Democrats should stand back and stand by; but alas, the idea of a sequel is making the rounds in Washington. In their righteous and proper anger over the Trump Riot and all that led up to it, many Democrats are talking themselves into one more go-round.

An impeachment vote in the House appears inevitable. But allowing a second impeachment process to spill past Inauguration Day, though it might please the gods of justice, among mortals would serve only Trump. The only thing he has left to lose is relevance. He feeds on controversy. Attention is his oxygen. Democrats can turn off the life support. Let his future bankruptcies play out in the business pages. Let his conspiracy theories molder on grocery-store racks. Let his plea bargains be reported in the second or third segment of the evening news. Until one fine day when we ask each other, What ever happened to Donald J. Trump?

Democrats alone — no one else — can keep Trump front and center past Jan. 20.

Those who are programming Impeachment II assert that another operatic clash is necessary to ensure that Trump won’t return in 2024. But there’s a better way to achieve the same purpose. Americans voted in record numbers for something other than Trump, and since the election his approval rating has dropped further, into the low 30s. He’s down so far he can’t even give away a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The public voted for an end to the Trump Show. Give them what they want.

So much hinges on ending the pandemic: the economy, public health, education, the pursuit of happiness. Ramping up vaccinations and restoring public health is no mere hip-pocket job, something to run with one hand while the other hand fights old battles. Given the thin-as-gossamer margins of control in the House and Senate, Democrats must prioritize. The future or the past? Beating covid-19, or beating the same old drum?

An addendum: In the heat of the Capitol riot, I wrote that it was wrong to ask whether police were prepared. I was heartsick at the idea that the Capitol should need to be fortified against a reckless president. But the way I put it was a mistake. Questions are appropriate. With luck, lessons can be learned.

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