There's a viral video from Washington DC on Inauguration Day. Anarchists have started a fire on K Street, prompting a public-spirited Trump supporter to turn up with a fire extinguisher. The crowd jeers as he puts out the flames, then throws things, then attacks him. It's hard to watch the clip without your sympathy swinging, however slightly, to Trump's supporters and, by extension, to the president himself.

Truly, Trump's best friends are his detractors. That's the sort of aphorism that columnists like to toss out, but, on this occasion, it is literally true. Donald Trump would not have been elected without the hysterical, inchoate rage of the other side; and that continuing rage seems set to prop him up in office.

Trump's inauguration speech reminded the world of his defects: his belligerence, his self-absorption, his vindictiveness towards perceived opponents, his inability to seek advice. On the first 57 Inauguration Days, presidents sought to be statesmanlike, to use elevated language, to appeal to a shared sense of nationhood. The 58th was different: angry, dystopian, graceless. The Washington Post carried a series of words that made their first appearance in an inauguration speech, including "bleed", "carnage", "disrepair", "ripped", "rusted", "stolen" and "tombstones".

Like almost everything about Trump, it was utterly unprecedented. Even Andrew Jackson, with whose pugnacious inaugural address Trumpsters were quick to draw parallels, voiced a modesty that would be unthinkable in his current successor:

A diffidence, perhaps too just, in my own qualification... induces me to hope for instruction and aid from the coordinate branches of the Government, and for the indulgence and support of my fellow citizens.

If you're looking for attributes that disqualify Donald Trump from his office, plenty have been on display since he assumed it, not least in his rambling speech to the CIA. Try "narcissist", "thug" or "fantasist". But, while some critics have focused on these defects, the more numerous and noisy have stuck to the words that make them feel good: "racist", "sexist", "homophobe".

OK, "sexist" is fair enough. But homophobe? How many previous Republican presidential candidates do you remember waving rainbow flags at the start of their campaigns?

Trump inauguration
US President Donald Trump acknowledges the audience after taking the oath of office as his wife Melania and daughter Tiffany watch during inauguration ceremonies in Washington, DC on 20 JanuaryGetty Images

Of course, if you're absolutely determined to pin that label on someone, you'll manage – usually through the tired old technique of finding something that someone else has said, and then linking him to that person.

The problem is not just that this tactic makes you look silly. It's not even that most voters will screen out your criticism as so much white noise. No, the problem is that you miss the real story. Here is a candidate with questionable links to an enemy power; a candidate who, despite repeatedly promising to release his tax returns, couldn't bear to let voters see them; a candidate who threatened, if he won, to go after the judge who failed to rule his way in the Trump University case. Here is a candidate who has lied repeatedly, often in the most childish way: Hillary started the birther business, Ted Cruz's father was mixed up in the Kennedy assassination, everyone is lying about the size of my yuge inauguration day crowds, yada yada.

If Leftists truly want to bring Trump's presidency to a premature end, they will focus on his most obvious weakness, namely his apparent inability to distinguish between public office and commercial interest.

But Leftists don't focus on character. They prefer to indulge themselves by trotting out all their favourite insults. The trouble is that they used those same insults on every previous GOP candidate. When even milquetoast Republicans of the Mitt Romney stripe are dismissed as racists and Nazis, the epithets lose any force, and the people deploying them stop being taken seriously. When they finally get around to attacking Trump for an actual enormity – mocking the family of a deceased American Serviceman, say – they find that no one is listening to them any more.

If Leftists truly want to bring Trump's presidency to a premature end, they will focus on his most obvious weakness, namely his apparent inability to distinguish between public office and commercial interest. But if they are more interested in flaunting their piety, they'll instead get worked up about, say, how many Latinos he has in his cabinet. The first might be effective; the second will generate a warm glow of self-righteousness. Guess which one they'll pick.


Daniel Hannan has been Conservative MEP for the South East of England since 1999, and is Secretary-General of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. Follow : @danieljhannan