It was always predictable — even inevitable — that it would end this way: defeat, disgrace, disgust and decay. After all, the whole enormous con was built on only one thing, an absolute mountain of bull excrement.

Marc C. Johnson

Marc C. Johnson

It was predictable — even inevitable — that the fetid smell would spawn a disease that would finally stain everyone close to its source, while everyone inhaling the vapors would be left sickened and stunned.

Lying, and not merely the garden variety truth shading that has always been a feature of politics, will be the lasting take away of the last four years. That so many people, the once principled, the merely ambitious as well as the graspers of conspiracy and the enablers of fraud, would accept it — even revel in it — will remain a mystery as the Grand Old Party splits along seams that can no longer be reconciled.

Built on lies and ended with lies. Where the Republican Party finds itself in January of 2021 recalls nothing more clearly than Horace Greeley’s mournful lament of the last and fatal victory of the dissolving Whig Party in 1848, when an unprincipled, incompetent political outsider — Zachery Taylor — fueled that party’s destruction. Trump Republicans, like the ancient Whigs, were, in Greeley’s phrase “at once triumphant and undone.”

Each of the provable lies, the evidence of deadly incompetence and the profound corruption of the cult king must be reckoned with even as the leader’s end game — recorded on tape attempting an electoral coup by threatening fellow Republican elected officials — will leave a putrid stain on our body politic for a long, long time to come.

That so many elected officials would willingly embrace the absurdity that a presidential election was stolen and embrace that fiction against absolutely all evidence — in opposition to five dozen unsuccessful court challenges and in the stark face of common sense — is the maximal proof of the intellectual and moral rot that has hollowed out the modern Republican Party.

The repercussions and recriminations will be vicious and ongoing. Such it is when a coup fails. And the harshest rebukes will come from conservatives mourning the death of character and ideals in which they once found salvation and hope.

“No one who has participated in this poisonous buffoonery should ever hold office again,” says the conservative columnist Kevin Williamson in the National Review. “There was a time when there was a plausible if sometimes self-serving rationale for working for the Trump administration — that the president is a clueless poseur surrounded by crackpots and frauds, and that he desperately needs good counsel from responsible adults. But the Trump administration is not currently under the guiding influence of any such responsible adults — and there simply is no defending what it is up to. This cannot be excused or explained away.”

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said of one of the most odious bootlickers, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson: “He has violated his oath of office and in doing so, Johnson has forfeited his right to represent the people of Wisconsin.” Close to half of congressional Republicans fit the same description.

When the president of the United States told his Washington, D.C., rally audience on Wednesday: “your leadership has led you down the tubes,” he spoke for him rare truth. Whatever reputation Mike Pence, his sycophantic vice president, once had is now as repulsive as a wad of gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. He will be the fall guy for the enormous lie. And everyone eventually touched by this rot will forever be diminished.

More in sorrow than anger, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney told journalist McKay Coppins this week:

“A huge portion of the American public has been misled by the president about the outcome of the election.” Romney, who will forever be remembered for having the courage to acknowledge that the president should be impeached for attempting to force a foreign leader to interfere in an American election, is the rare conservative officeholder speaking truth about the scams.

“The president was right that there was an effort to corrupt the election,” Romney said, “but it was not by Joe Biden. It was by President Trump.”

Pick your outrage of the last four years: the inexplicable embrace of Vladimir Putin; the scandalous pardons of murderers and crooks, often only to serve the cult king; the stoking of racial and anti-immigrant hatred; refugee children separated from their parents; claims that a deadly disease that has claimed 360,000 American lives was “a hoax” and claims about a stolen election.

It has all been a lie, a con, an unprincipled embrace of authoritarianism unprecedented in our history. To ignore this, to tolerate it, to act in its service is the most fundamental debasement of democracy.

This dark and demented man, as writer Neal Gabler observed recently, “has stripped away the vestiges of morality, enthroned self-interest — particularly his own — over common good, inverted our values and ripped the needle off the moral compass, leaving us aimless at best, cruel at worst. It is important to emphasize that our democracy has never been protected by constitutional guardrails, which are altogether too fragile. It has always been protected by something stronger: our moral underpinnings.”

And now Republicans have demolished their moral underpinnings in service to what? A man who promised his fevered followers “so much winning,” but who in fact has presided over a party putting forth such a stream of craziness that Republicans lost the House, the Senate the presidency and its soul on his watch.

“The Republicans are not debating big ideas: economic policy, national security, the role of government,” journalist David Corn wrote this week. “The debate is whether to join Trump’s clownish but dangerous attempt at a political coup. There is nothing noble here. Do you accept Trump’s democracy-defying cult of personality or not? For Trump and his followers, this is now what makes a Republican.”

This is the death of reason, the demise of responsibility. And one suspects there is no turning back from this level of madness. Once you embrace sedition, as so many Republicans did this week, what is the end game?

How appropriate, since Republicans have floated all the way down to the bottom with their mad leader, that loudspeakers at the “Overturn the Election” rally on the Ellipse in our Capitol earlier this week were playing the theme from the motion picture “Titanic.”

Johnson served as press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore. This column originally appeared in the Lewiston Tribune.