April 18, 2024
I suspect public opinion and the desire for continuing constitutional government would restrain Democrats tempted by such a gamble. But the one thing we can count on in the Trump era of American politics is that surprises are around every corner. It can always get worse.

Four More Years of Trump?

What a second term could bring

Despite polls that consistently showed Donald Trump running a competitive race in 2016, his winning the presidency came as a shock to most of official Washington, the media, and other “sense-making” institutions in this country. The sight of such a norm-breaking figure taking the highest office in the land seemed to unscrew the loosest screws. Trump’s behavior — whether throwing a Starburst candy at Angela Merkel (“Don’t say I never give you anything”) or tweeting about how his nuclear “button” was “much bigger” than Kim Jong-un’s — drove some people genuinely insane and inspired outlandish conspiratorial thinking and behavior in opposition to him. It also degraded public discourse and the image of republican governance. The Trump presidency had high points — the roaring economy and rising wages of 2019 — and low points: the summer of riots and lockdowns. But the worst fears — the end of our democracy — turned out to be unfounded. Trump was an unpopular president with limited ability to command criminal fealty or organize a conspiracy that extended beyond a rabble. American institutions proved stronger than his egotism joined with QAnon’s muscle.

This limited ability for troublemaking may be why voters are thinking of taking a chance on him again. Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee, and in most polls, he is soundly beating incumbent Joe Biden. Therefore, it’s time to ask what we could expect from a second Trump presidency. There are four possible outcomes.

A Replay of the Limited Trump

The likeliest scenario is a replay of the first term, a kind of controlled chaos that fascinates, repulses, thrills, exhausts, and polarizes. After all, men don’t change, and Trump, after age 78, is the least likely of all men to change. So it’s worth remembering the cut of his first term and what it would portend for a second.

The fact is, there were strong limits on Trump’s presidency from the start. These included the Congress and the courts. In many ways, Trump had run against both parties. Even with a Republican majority, he found limited willingness to work for his priorities on the Hill. He ended up passing parts of an already existing Republican agenda of tax cuts and never got full funding for his border wall. The courts energetically — and sometimes dubiously — imposed limits on his executive orders, limits that his administration then respected.

Interesting Read…

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