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November and everything after

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New York Magazine has published nineteen pieces about what a second Trump term would mean. In his introduction to the series, Jon Chait points to a basic truth regarding the nature of the resistance to Trump and Trumpism:

Here is one starting point for contemplating a second Trump term: The Ukraine scandal only became a Trump scandal because Ukraine refused to submit to a pair of presidential demands that would have been fairly easy to satisfy. If Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had merely announced that he was looking into a mysterious missing Democratic server and corruption by the Bidens, then the whole affair probably wouldn’t have become a Trump scandal at all. It would have become, to the American news-consuming public, a Biden scandal. Ukraine held off, though, for a very sensible reason. Ukrainians, analyzing American politics, calculated that Trump may not stay in office much beyond this year. It was a hedge against forever Trumpism.

Trump’s favorable rating fell faster than any other president-elect’s in the history of polling, dropping below 50 percent even before his inauguration, a fact that made him look to most civilians as well as politicians like a probable one-termer from the get-go. The assumption that his election was a terrible mistake that would be corrected in four years has been an invisible force propping up the resistance both domestic and international to his agenda. The Iran nuclear deal has primarily kept its head above water because Europe is still respecting the deal rather than joining in Trump’s saber-rattling. When Trump gutted the Obama administration’s fuel-mileage standards, auto companies steered clear, no doubt because it wouldn’t pay for them to invest in gas-guzzlers if a Democrat was to come in and force them to change again.

Only in the past few months has Trump’s reelection started to appear as likely as not. If he wins, a basic calculation about how to deal with him will tip for a whole range of players. Trump has leaned on social-media companies and the owners of such important organs as CNN and the Washington Post to suppress criticism and scrutiny of his administration and to dial up the praise. He has openly promised pardons to anybody who violates the law in the effort to deport migrants or complete his border fence, and as of yet, nobody has taken him up on the offer.

The natural assumption among those rooting for his failure is that four more years will be as unbearable as the first four. But they could in fact be significantly worse than that if a chunk of the resistance to Trump’s power suddenly gives way, revealing something enduring, even permanent, about America. Who else — in the bureaucracy, in business, in governments overseas — is holding off full collaboration with Trump on the premise that he’s just a passing fever?

We’re on the edge of herrenvolk ethno-nationalist fascism, and the end of liberal democracy in America. Every time I read some idiot in the comments talking about how he won’t vote for X for president because X is so terrible, it’s driven home to me yet again that people are still walking around in a dream.

And if you’re an upper class white person, it’s easy enough to stay safely cocooned in that dream — for now. But not for much longer.

If Trump wins (or “wins”) in November, there won’t be anything left four years from now. It won’t matter whether he gets the SCOTUS to declare the 22nd Amendment unconstitutional and goes on to a third term, or installs one of his imbecile children in the office, or simply refuses to hold an election at all. America as we knew it will be over, and the country will eventually disintegrate altogether.

Winning the White House in November may only be delaying that result, but losing guarantees it. For now, we have one shot.

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