The first point to remember is that the majority of Americans never supported Donald Trump.
The disgraced former president never won the popular vote in a national election, losing by 3 million votes in 2016 to Hillary Clinton and by a landslide 7 million in 2020 to Joe Biden, the oldest candidate to stand for the job.
Trump was the first president since polling began who never reached a 50 per cent approval rating at any time during his presidency. His average approval rating over four years is also the worst in polling history.
He skulked out of Washington yesterday with his worst-ever personal approval ratings, becoming the first outgoing president to deliberately snub his successor's inauguration since 1869. Hardly anyone showed up to his farewell at Andrews military base. Even his seditious mob declined to have a second go.
Unlike the only two other elected presidents over the last 88 years to be thrown out after a single term, Trump left his party utterly powerless in Washington, controlling neither the White House, nor the Senate, nor the House of Representatives.
Unlike Jimmy Carter in 1980, he cannot explain his loss by the Iranian hostage humiliation. Nor does he have Bush's 1992 excuse that he was really the third-term president of the 12-year Reagan-Bush era in a country wanting generational change.
Trump is the first president to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives, and the first on the treason-level charge of "incitement of insurrection".
There is an outside but rising chance he will be the first to be convicted by the Senate and banned from seeking office again, with even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell saying he was responsible for provoking the attempted putsch a fortnight ago.
The extent of this rightful scorn cannot be explained by Trump's policy agenda.
Being brutal on illegal immigration has not proven unpopular in any developed country, including New Zealand.
Similarly, even in a much smaller, more trade-dependent and militarily weak country like New Zealand, we know that politicians wilfully undermining the rules-based multilateral trading system or important security alliances like Nato doesn't cost them votes.
Trump pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Change Agreement seems vandalous to New Zealanders. But even here, neither issue counts for much compared with the importance to voters of the domestic economy.
On that measure, Trump had a reasonable story.
Albeit at the cost of taking on grossly irresponsible debt, Trump's tax cuts and regulatory reform unquestionably extended Barack Obama's flagging post-GFC recovery, raising wages and almost eliminating unemployment.
As a result, income inequality narrowed in the first three years of Trump's regime, including for lower-income, less-educated and black and Hispanic families.
In terms of the foreign policy issues that voters do care about, the US did not come under foreign attack during Trump's four years and he turned out to be the president least inclined to send young men and women to war since Carter. His son-in-law Jared Kushner's Middle East peace deals may yet prove enduring.
He left office with the share market at a record high.
None of this adds up to Trump's boasts, but it could have been a respectable legacy for a Republican president wanting to establish a new mercantilist and isolationist era.
The reasons Trump was so historically unpopular speak positively to the values and integrity of the majority of American voters.
For the majority, lower taxes, rising incomes and even new jobs were not enough to compensate for Trump's pathological dishonesty and manifest unfitness to hold office — and this was before his denial and then half-hearted response to Covid-19, let alone his involvement in the attempted post-election coup.
This is cause for optimism that the US can move beyond Trumpism faster than some fear, especially if he is rightly convicted by the Senate and banned from standing for office again.
Every important US institution stood up to Trump's insurrection, including judges he appointed, including the three on the Supreme Court.
The social media giants have accepted there is a problem with their power to legitimise nonsense like pizzagate and QAnon.
President Biden has given the patriotic, inspirational, values-based speech that every new president has managed in modern times, except for Trump. He did so in the usual place and at the usual time, despite Covid and security concerns.
Symbolically, McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy joined Biden and Democrat Senate and House leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for prayers prior to the inauguration.
Trump's Vice-President Mike Pence rejected his boss' farewell event and attended the inauguration instead.
Former Republican President George W. Bush attended with former Democrat Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, as did Bush Snr's Vice-President Dan Quayle.
Bush Jnr's controversial Vice-President Dick Cheney could not attend for health reasons, but let it be known he was proud his daughter Liz was one of 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump to be impeached.
Carter, now 96 and frail, sent his best wishes. It was the return to unity and civility Biden called for.
A final indictment of Trump's rule is not so much that he declined to be a menace at Biden's inauguration but that the new president giving the expected speech and all other living presidents acting with the usual decorum is necessary to remark upon.
There is still a long way to go.
Hitler never won a majority of German voters either and, if anything, the conspiracy Trump has trained his supporters to believe is even more elaborate than stories of the so-called November criminals of 1918 and ancient European anti-Semitism.
Since his campaign alleging Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim terrorist, Trump and his enablers have fostered belief in a pizzeria-based cannibalistic-paedophile network that involves pretty much everyone who attended Biden's inauguration.
Still, remember they are a minority. And yesterday at least, the United States proved it can once again be something like the shining city upon the hill that it has been for so many for so long.
If that is too hifalutin', the other good news is that Wall Street surged again after Biden was sworn in.
- Matthew Hooton is an Auckland-based PR consultant.