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The rehabilitation of Donald Trump

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by BEI/REX/Shutterstock (5134904e) Merv Griffin, Ronald Reagan & Donald Trump Hebrew University Scopus Award Dinner January 15, 1990 – Beverly Hills, CA. Merv Griffin, Ronald Reagan & Donald Trump. Hebrew University Scopus Award Dinner. Photo┬«Berliner Studio/BEImages

Five and a half years ago I predicted there was a good chance that Donald Trump would end up getting elected president of the United States, at a time when such a prediction was widely considered to be absurd on its face.

I will now gaze into the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives, and make another prediction: Donald Trump’s presidency, which at this moment is being treated as pretty much a disaster by your standard issue National Review type “respectable” conservative commentator, is going to be largely rehabilitated by future mainstream conservative thought.

I’m not saying he’s going to end up with a whole institute at Stanford named after him, at which future Richard Epsteins can make farcically wrong predictions while getting paid big bucks to affect public policy on subjects they know nothing about, but I do believe he’s going to end up treated by mainstream conservatives — to the extent that phrase doesn’t become a complete oxymoron as we hurtle toward ethno-nationalist herrenvolk democracy — as a good president, who made a couple of bad mistakes in the last year of his term.

That’s going to be the narrative: Donald Trump’s campaign to make America great again was an unambiguously good thing, and it on the whole was going very well — stock market records! Cancel Culture resisted! Our Lady Amy of the Supreme Court! — until his mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his subsequent attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Those things will remain a bridge too far for our respectable revisionists — mistakes were made — but before those tragic missteps he really was a good president, doing lots of good things in a refreshingly unapologetic way, although he was always a bit rough around the edges dotchaknow.

I’m speaking here of mainstream conservative commenters — the kind of people who will still end up getting published in the New York Times etc. To the extreme right — aka more than half of the current Republican party — even these caveats will be dismissed, as the COVID-19 “hoax” will end up in the same conceptual bin as the Russia “hoax,” and the climate change “hoax,” while the attempt to stop the steal of the 2020 election will be remembered as a wholly justified exercise in executive power to fight the worst betrayal of American values in the history of history etc etc.

Listen to me now and believe me later: the fact that the first three years of Trump’s presidency were non-stop carnivals of almost unbelievable incompetence and corruption is going to be memory-holed — and ironically the fact that his fourth year was unimpeachably worse will somehow provide the psychological buffer for this massive revision of the history of the Trump presidency which, unless he pulls a fascist Grover Cleveland, will at last be blessedly history tomorrow afternoon.

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