This editorial was updated at 5:41 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.
President Donald Trump, it appears, will leave office with as few elected Republican supporters as he had when he started his campaign for presidency in 2015.
Many of those he made over the past five years were lost Wednesday when his speech at a "Save America" rally on the Ellipse just south of the White House seemed to be just the tinder some in the huge crowd needed to surround the U.S. Capitol, breach it and vandalize the chambers where constitutional actions were being conducted that would certify the president was the loser in the November election.
Trump, in a nearly one hour and 14-minute speech, never called for violence, never suggested anyone try to enter the Capitol and never called for the proceedings to be interrupted. But he may as well have.
Continuing to insist not only that he won the election but that he won it in a landslide, thus telegraphing to his listeners that Congress was taking actions that would make it complicit in the theft, he made statements such as "we will never concede," "we will not take it any more" and "we're going to walk down to the Capitol."
When protesters were finally cleared from the Capitol late in the afternoon and some sense of order was restored, four people were dead. Dead. One woman had been shot, and two men and one woman died from what were termed "medical emergencies." Fourteen police officers were injured, one seriously.
It was the last straw for many of his backers.
One of the earliest to support Trump in 2015 was U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, who went on to be the president's first attorney general. However, he'd barely been confirmed for the position when Trump turned on him when he recused himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Sessions resigned in late 2018.
Another early supporter was then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie was high on the list for several Cabinet posts but not chosen. Trump, since, has had very little good to say about him.
On Wednesday, the former governor blamed him for the Capitol mayhem because it was perpetrated by people who had been "lied to consistently by the president about a fraudulent election."
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, for the most part a loyal supporter of the president's, also said he was through.
Trump had been a "consequential" leader, he said, "but today count me out. Enough is enough. When it's over, it is over."
Former Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Chattanooga resident, was considered by Trump in 2016 to be his vice presidential running mate. A little over a year later, he and Corker were at odds.
On Wednesday, he told CNBC the president had "undermined" the democracy and character of the nation. "He created such divisiveness that's going to be very hard to overcome."
Trump even turned on his loyal vice president, Mike Pence, who had the temerity to follow the Constitution in the certifying of electoral votes from the election Wednesday.
"Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution," he tweeted, "giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!"
Few would have blamed the vice president if he had resigned, as several White House staffers did after Wednesday's riot.
What is left at the end of the day is a cult of one — Trump himself. Oh, he can assuage himself that he got almost 75 million votes in November's election, more than any man in history except the man who beat him. But most of those voted for relatively conservative government, for strategies to return to a robust economy, for constitutional judges.
And he can tell himself — and he'd be right — that he was loved for confronting a biased national media and for calling out his opponents for the stunts they try to pull on the American people.
But Trump was never content to go gently into that good night, election fraud though there might have been (but not enough that court rulings from lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign and others have turned up to change the results).
So he promised something big would happen Wednesday, something that would overturn the election and keep him in power for four more years. Millions believed him, and some of those broke into the Capitol, occupied the chair where Pence usually sat and found their way to the speaker of the House's office, where a photo was made of an insurrectionist sitting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's chair.
Trump was right. Something big did happen Wednesday, but not what he had in mind. Congress fulfilled its constitutional duty. A new president will be sworn in on Jan. 20. Trump's behavior and words will be remembered as one of the last acts of a desperate man.