In 1986, I published a novel, a parody White House memoir, that begins on Inauguration Day 1989 with the president-elect arriving at the White House to escort outgoing President Reagan to the Capitol for the ceremony. But Mr. Reagan won’t leave. Not for reasons of obduracy or to thwart the democratic process. He’s just gone a bit dotty. It’s cold outside, he’s still in his jammies, and he doesn’t feel like leaving. Maybe tomorrow.

That turned out to be a risqué premise in 1986. I remarked to an interviewer from The Washington Post that I worried I might have offended Mr. Reagan. Four days later, the U.S. Postal Service—not yet ruled by a presidential donor-crony—delivered a handwritten note from the president saying he was delighted by his part in my novel. That’s class. That was then.

When Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, conceded victory to Bill Clinton on Election Night 1992, he went briskly to the podium and said, “The people have spoken, and we respect the majesty of the democratic system.” He then extended warm congratulations. In time, he and Clinton became Best Friends Forever. That, too, was then. Viewed through the swamp miasmas of the last four years, Mr. Bush’s character shimmers like a steeple rising above a mythical Brigadoon.

What now? From one quarter, sound and fury, the acrid stench of sour grapes and lawsuits, ending in fingernail marks on the Resolute desk. The G.O.P., which now might as well stand for Gutless Opportunistic Poltroonery, is trying to raise $60 million for a “legal defense” to overturn the results of the “stolen election.” (Good luck with that.)

“The people have spoken, and we respect the majesty of the democratic system.”

What else? Violence, possibly. The 14 members of the troglodyte right arrested for plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan were responding to the dog whistle, doing their part to Make America Great Again. Goebbels, remember, urged Germans to “work toward the Führer” rather than wait for explicit instructions. His avatar Steve Bannon, taking time off from planning his legal defense for (allegedly) embezzling Mexican-border-wall funds, announced that he wanted a restoration of Tudor justice, with Dr. Fauci and the director of the F.B.I. “beheaded.” (I’m putting that in quotes so you won’t think I’m making it up.) Donald Trump Jr., meanwhile, is calling for “war.” (Ibid.) Something went very wrong during Junior’s potty training, though not nearly as wrong as during Dad’s, as First Niece Mary Trump has related.

Face it, folks (as Mr. Biden would say), we now live in an America where peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square, the nation’s front yard, are gassed and shot with rubber pellets by military police to clear the caudillo’s way for a farcical presidential photo op. The Republican Senate, with one exception, has become a sty of ovine, lickspittle quislings, degenerate descendants of such giants as Everett Dirksen, Barry Goldwater, Howard Baker, and John McCain. Four incoming Republican congresspersons are believers in QAnon, a sodality of bedwetters who (actually) believe that Democratic leaders are Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking pedophiles.

What a distance we’ve traveled since Cole Porter gave us “Now, heaven knows, anything goes.” When I was a young Republican lad in short pants, passing out Nixon bumper stickers, the lunatic fringe consisted of cuckoos of far paler plumage. The John Birchers (actually) believed that President Eisenhower was a Communist agent. The great conservative thinker Russell Kirk put that one to rest by saying, “Eisenhower isn’t a Communist. He’s a golfer.”

What now? From one quarter, sound and fury, the acrid stench of sour grapes and lawsuits, ending in fingernail marks on the Resolute desk.

Back then, before the Internet honeycombed the public square with silos and echo chambers, a well-turned Oh, puh-leeze had the power to deflate demagogues and their noxious -isms. The nail in Joe McCarthy’s coffin was hammered in by U.S. Army special counsel Joseph Welch, when he confronted him across the hearing table with “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” I’ve been hoping, these past four years, to hear someone quote that at the president. There’s still time, between now and January 20, 2021.

In October 1999, I essayed a Donald Trump presidential inauguration speech for the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal. It began, “This is a great day for me, personally.” He went on to gripe about the shabbiness of the Mall that spread westward before him. “You call this a mall?” It seemed funny at the time. Some months ago, Mr. Trump was at the opposite end of the Mall, sitting beneath Daniel Chester French’s statue and being interviewed on TV. He wasn’t in the least reticent about comparing himself to Lincoln; indeed, he spent much of the time grousing that he was getting scant credit for his Lincolnesque-ness. UNFAIR! His sense of grievance was resplendently on display after the election in the briefing room. Trump as Victim-in-Chief is one of his frequent incarnations. Watching, I thought: Any minute now, he’s going to claim that someone shot him.

You Can Do It

Having scripted a Trump inaugural speech, I wondered what a concession speech might sound like.

Fake election. A hoax. You know it and I know it. A total disgrace. It’s very sad. The saddest thing ever in history. The Biden crime family and the radical socialistactually, let’s call them what they really are: disgusting Communists. Disgusting. They stole the election. Not from me. From you. That’s right. But don’t worry. We’re gonna get it back. Oh, yeah. We are soo going to get it back. I will rise again in four days. Was it four days? I think it was four days. Some say three. Whatever. But don’t worry, folks. I’m not going anywhere.

Actually, sir, you might be. Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance knows more than I do about those tax returns you’ve been promising to release, just as soon as they’re “out of audit.”

I don’t like the idea of a former president of the United States going to jail. It smacks of sh*thole countries. But Mr. Trump has done much to make America a sh*thole country in the eyes of the world. No one, even among his most ardent detractors, has suggested he go to jail for presidential crimes. That’s what we have impeachment for—or so we thought until the aforementioned G.O.P. nullified that lofty idea. But America being a nation of equal justice under law, why should anyone be immune from prosecution for crimes committed as a citizen? Magnanimous these thoughts may not be, I stipulate. But there is a pleasing karmic aspect to contemplating the prospect of color-coordinating Mr. Trump’s attire with his hair and complexion.

Criminality aside, ex-president Trump has a number of financial appointments in Samarra on his calendar. Deutsche Bank may at last be weary of extending credit. How that will play out is anyone’s guess. To paraphrase J. Paul Getty: If you owe the bank a million dollars, you have a problem. If you owe the bank $421 million, the bank has a problem. Meanwhile, the I.R.S. may decide to disallow that $73 million tax refund. Please remit in enclosed envelope. Mr. Trump faces more palms than there are on the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, among them those of $1,200-an-hour lawyers. In 2018, Bill Clinton said that he left office with $16 million in debt. It will be interesting and—I confess—vastly entertaining to watch this next chapter of The Apprentice.

Harsh? You tell me: How much sympathy is owed to a president who has evinced not one scintilla of genuine concern for the 240,000 Americans whose deaths took place on his watch? Who warred against science and, at the end, the doctors themselves? (See also: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”)

By contrast to Trump’s snarls and raging, there was the former vice president speaking to us, urging patience and unity, pledging to work as hard for those who voted against him as he would for those who voted for him. A spa treatment for the soul of America.

Adapted from an essay in the forthcomingNow What? The Voters Have Spoken—Essays on Life After Trump, edited by Steve Kettman, published by Wellstone Books.

Christopher Buckley is the author of numerous books. His latest, Make Russia Great Again, is out now