The neediness of politicians has always fascinated me; the pathological desire for relevance; the plasticity of belief in the service of self-aggrandizement; the depths plumbed in order to stave off insignificance, which can be as frightening as non-existence itself. One of my favorite politicians, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, is almost morbidly needy. His desire for attention made him into a brilliant retailer, mainly of himself, but also of his ideas, and intermittently, of his state. His neediness made him greatly entertaining. But it also caused him to betray his own principles.
I recognize that it took millions of Republican primary voters to bring America to this frightening moment, a moment in which a preposterous grifter of authoritarian bent whose mental health is the subject of pervasive and anxious speculation, has become a major-party nominee for president. But it was men like Christie who were indispensable in the creation of this moment. Donald J. Trump could have been stopped. I believe he could have been stopped early, by a concerted effort to unify the party behind a single, viable, non-fraudulent candidate; and he could have been stopped late, if Republicans like Christie had not crumpled before Trump. A handful of honorable men did, in fact, try to stop him. But they were too few in number, and too marginal to make a difference. Collectively, the most influential and smartest Republican elected officials—people who fall into the general category of Them That Knew Better—just might have been able to devise a way to prevent what is happening from happening. But abdication of responsibility and self-debasement in the pursuit of power were the order of the day.