Now that the last, best hope held out by President Trump for sustaining his presidency has been extinguished by the highest court in the land, the electors prepare to fulfill their appointed constitutional duty of determining the next occupant of the Oval Office. The 45th president sits on the precipice of history relegating him to the register of one-term presidents.
But what a ride it has been in the five and a half years since he descended what may now be the most renowned escalator in history. He may have been brought low by forces beyond his control that have now marked him as only the fourth chief executive in the last century to fail in his bid for re-election. But we knew Jimmy Carter and Bush 41, Hoover not so much, and the Donald is no Jimmy, George or Herbert.
From the start, we knew, or should have known, just how hard the road would be for Donald Trump. Lest we forget, what he intended to achieve as president of the United States represented arguably the most radical frontal assault on the status quo since Americans took up arms against each other in the war between the states.
He would burst onto the scene with a theatrical flourish, and be instantly perceived as something entirely different, much more – or less – than all the politicians we had seen for time in memorium. He would be willing to forsake an enviable life of wealth, fame and power in exchange for the poisonous slings and arrows of the hordes of careerists, top to bottom, disconcerted and threatened to the core by his presence.
He would present as the one man who could take on, and effect, genuine reform by the force of his will. And he would be forced to do so while laboring under the burden of a ubiquitous and deranged alliance of enemies which no man could seem to bear, while placing the weight of altering the trajectory of the nation and the world squarely on his own broad shoulders.
He would come to Washington alone, bereft of institutional support, pledging to throw old practices and policies overboard. He would do so for the sake of exposing and challenging that which had forever been off-limits. He would call out the corruption long preserved, protected and defended by an encrusted and discredited political and media syndicate. The Swampocrats would no longer be comfortable in their distance from, and unaccountability to, the people they purportedly serve.
As enemies throughout the syndicate committed to his destruction from day one, he would do just as he did during the campaign that preceded his shock election: go over their heads and appeal straight to the heart of the millions who had all but given up on politics.
Shortly after his stunning 2016 win, Trump would swiftly set the tone for draining the Swamp by publicly disputing the price of the new Air Force One negotiated by the politicians – and soon inducing a substantial discount. It signaled that the new boss would not resemble any of the old bosses. He would send the unambiguous signal that America was open for business as never before. And it would hardly be the only time he would scold the career politicians and apparatchiks allowing his country to be ripped off – from adversaries like China to friends like NATO – while bowing to an agenda tailored not for America, but the globe.
He would be one man against the world, the figurative equivalent of that lone soul standing in the path of the tank at Tiananmen Square.
With his near-quixotic quest to return America to a lost greatness, he would simultaneously define his enemies in a fashion reserved only for a person not deriving his power from the very trough at which the careerists feed. He would expose our supposed betters as the very insidious, odious, and yes, deplorable gang of rogues he had labeled as such from the moment he mounted the stage.
He said he would build an enviable economy. He promised to become “the greatest jobs president,” to lower taxes, radically reduce regulation and put a chicken in every pot – and would deliver all of it.
It would take the most disputed presidential election in history – surpassing even the legendary contest of 2000 – to take him down. It would take a contest in which every metric that had proven 100% reliable in predicting election results would all, for the first time, and at the same time, be turned on their heads. The certain winner would lose, the generic opponent would be declared the winner. Black is white, white is black.
His reported defeat would come to define one of the newest words in the cultural lexicon: gaslighting, a popular formulation for an age-old question: are you going to believe me or your lying eyes? Surely your eyes deceive you. Those metrics signifying approval of the great bulk of his policies, the extreme voter enthusiasm, the massive rallies, spontaneous as they were stretching all the way to the blue basin of California, would be dismissed as little more than an illusion, merely scattered anecdotal evidence. Massive vote dumps in the middle of the night in key states and a mile-high pile of sworn allegations and testimony across the land about election fraud would be dismissed with the back of the hand.
His media-defined persona – and a virus from a bat – would be blamed for his inevitable defeat. In the words of the songwriter, he fought the law – and the law won. He would be vanquished, but not into the mist of history.
Whether Trump’s populist genie can be shoved back in the moldy bottle, or the toothpaste squeezed back into the stale institutional tube, is now for others to decide. But rest assured that the shock waves of Donald Trump’s once-in-a-lifetime run, his one-man crusade to put America first against the darkest of forces and longest of odds, shall continue to be felt long past his departure from the White House.
Read more from Tim Donner.
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