We spend a lot of time these days talking about a return to normalcy. We have reason to be cautiously optimistic (or maybe just outright optimistic, as Scott Lincicome details below) on the pandemic front: Cases are down, some school districts that have been remote all year are opening or inching toward it, and vaccines are on the rise.
Those are all immensely welcome developments. But it occurred to me this week that it’s not the only normal that we can maybe start looking forward to. The news doesn’t seem to be slowing down much: The Biden administration launched airstrikes against this week directed at Iranian militias in Syria. Two of the new president’s Cabinet-level nominees—Neera Tanden and Xavier Beccera—faced scrutiny from Republicans and even a few Democrats. Congress is working toward passing the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, even though the Senate parliamentarian threw a wrench into the plan to sneak a $15 hourly minimum wage into the legislation. These are all important stories, and they have one thing in common: They have little or nothing to do with Donald Trump.
Yes, there was plenty of Trump-related news this week. The Supreme Court ordered that New York prosecutors could access his tax returns. And supporters displayed a golden statue of the former president, seemingly attired in a blazer and American-flag shorts (I wish I were making this up) at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Congress is just beginning its investigations into the events that the former president instigated at the Capitol on January 6, and conservatives will spend the next few years sorting out the future direction of the movement.
However, while I might be wrong, it feels like Trump’s influence over the news cycle—if not the Republican Party—is receding, at least slowly. However you might feel about him, that should be a welcome change. For the last five years, it was almost impossible for any story not to have some kind of Trump angle. He regularly called attention to himself, through his actions, his tweets, his calls into Twitter or Fox & Friends, and his polarizing nature rendered his opponents unable to do anything but oblige.