|National Museum of American History—Smithsonian Institution|
You know what Sunday is, right?
No, not the Super Bowl — geez, you’re worse than I am.
That’s … the first Sunday in February.
This coming Sunday, Jan. 20, is … wait for it … the second anniversary of the Trump presidency.
And you without a gift.
Don’t feel bad, these things sneak up.
Two years down.
Only … six to go.
Ha ha! You thought I was going to say “two to go,” didn’t you? You believe he’s out in 2020, if not before? Pretty to think so. But if this historical epoch has taught anybody anything—and I’m not convinced it has—it’s the infinite human capacity for self-delusion, and a bottomless genius for misunderstanding what is going on right before our eyes.
From where I’m sitting, Trump wins in 2020.
Why? Lots of reasons.
First, he’s the incumbent. History favors the incumbent: 19 presidents have run for re-election since 1900 (including Gerald Ford, who was technically running for his first election, since he was never voted in). Fourteen won, five lost—Taft to Wilson; Hoover to FDR; Ford to Carter; Carter to Reagan, and George H. W. Bush to Clinton.
So statistics give Trump almost 3-to-1 odds of winning.
Second, the Democrats display every indication of the disarray we’re so good at. All sorts of long-shot Dems are already throwing their hats in the ring. Bernie Sanders won’t go away. Add a strong third party candidate or two and the Left is a bunch of cats in a barrel scratching at each other as they go over the falls.
Third, Trump was elected in the first place, having never held office, with his jaw-dropping personal flaws and hydra-headed inadequacy in high definition to those on the still-able-to-perceive-reality end of the political spectrum. Now he's president, with Air Force One and "Hail to the Chief" and all the trappings that so impress some folks. If his bluster on "The Apprentice" won over millions of votes, imagine what "The State of the Union" does.
Fourth, his numbers are rock solid. Forty percent of America supported Trump in April 2017. Forty percent support him now. A bit of a dip with the entire U.S. government shut down, but that'll change, assuming they ever open it again and maybe even if they don't. Robert Mueller could produce a videotape of Trump selling the United States to Vladimir Putin for 30 pieces of silver and his popularity would maybe dip to 37 percent, then recover. Once you substitute Fox-fed fantasy for what's actually going on around you, then the gruesome details of the reality you are ignoring no longer matter.
There's more, but we're running out of room to assess the Trump presidency up to this point. Though I'm not sure that's necessary. You already know: two years of norm-shattering chaos, his administration a twirling bank of revolving doors as mediocrities and misfits race in, screw up and are spat out, all to the steady, continuous applause of his base. For intellectual honesty purposes, I have to find something positive, and that's easy: the bipartisan reform of the criminal justice system, giving judges more leeway and reducing Draconian sentences. Trump signed it in late December, as the government was shutting down, and it was almost overlooked in the commotion. But it was an important development, and if there were three other achievements like it, I might be spreading my palms and rationalizing, "He might be a clown, but he's actually doing something."
But he isn't. That bill is about it—otherwise scuttling environmental standards, terrifying our allies internationally, emboldening our foes, particularly Trump's Russian overlords, undercutting the press and the justice system, and now this nonsense about the wall, which began as a slogan to fire up campaign-trail crowds then morphed into The Most Important Thing in the World. Let me ask Republicans this: If it's so important, why didn't Trump get it done when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress?
While you ponder that, Democrats can celebrate Sunday by looking in the mirror and remembering this:
Donald Trump did not take power in 2016 and wreck the country.
Just the opposite.
We wrecked ourselves first, for years and years, tearing down government, mocking authority and expertise, polarizing ourselves, spewing toxic, exaggerated rhetoric. Our body politic flatlined and nobody even noticed the warning buzzers.
Then Donald Trump showed up to ravage the corpse.