To set the pace for an argument that Donald Trump has forever changed politics, consider the following: The Republican Party has now become the party of blue-collar America, the working class. Then think of how wildly improbable that really is.
The GOP had forever been positioned as the party of the rich, culminating with the ascension of the textbook plutocrat, Mitt Romney, to the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. But when Trump descended that escalator three years later, it began a process of transformation in policy and branding that now represents perhaps the greatest sea change in modern American political history. It ranks at least equal to the Democrats’ about-face from the party of segregation to civil rights crusaders during the 1960s.
While this transmutation represents the most pronounced and profound manifestation of the impact the Trump era has had on the body politic, and the indelible imprint it will leave behind, there’s been so much more. One by one, the 45th president set out to do exactly what he promised. And why wouldn’t he? He was the first truly independent president, already possessed of enormous power, wealth, and influence and thus unbeholden to the money-changers. He willingly threw himself to the wolves for a purpose much larger than himself: the belief that he was uniquely positioned to achieve systemic reform that he — and millions who have become passionate followers — believed no professional politician would be willing or able to attempt. Indeed, his boldest claim of all was that he, and he alone, would actually drain the Swamp.
As Trump proceeded to mold the GOP into a populist, America-first vessel, Democrats desperate to take him down by any means available lurched sharply in the opposite direction, one that formed the starkest possible contrast to the reviled president, and they ultimately outed themselves. Once seen as defenders of the common man, they spent every waking hour promoting sick Trump-hate fantasies, boxed themselves into an ever-tighter corner, and are now branded as the party of coastal elites and the grievance industry. Their unrelenting frontal assault on this president promoted by their media wing — ubiquitous sycophants in corporate media — together with election tactics that will leave Trump voters forever in a state of outrage may land the feckless Joe Biden in the White House. But their leftward lurch leaves them in a precarious position going forward. And they know it.
No candidate in American history had ever vanquished two dynasties in a single campaign, but Trump made short work of low-energy Jeb Bush — and more than a dozen others considered the GOP’s best and brightest — and then carved up Hillary Clinton, dealing a blow to the solar plexus of the uniparty political establishment. Five years after his emergence, the status quo is still coming to grips with the cyclone named Trump that descended on D.C.
The bombastic billionaire laid out a wildly ambitious agenda and pursued it with an impatient spirit and ofttimes reckless abandon. All along, he presided over the country as if he would have only four years to accomplish his lengthy laundry list of priorities. It seemed that, at some level, he sensed his take-no-prisoners brand of reform would meet with opposition sufficiently fierce to take him down sooner rather than later, and he had no time to waste.
And so, he came roaring out of the starting gate, intent on accomplishing oft-stated but long-ignored goals of conventional politicians. And he succeeded in a big way on issues of existential significance: a flurry of Mideast peace treaties after finally moving our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, genuine energy independence, repatriation of profits held overseas, new and improved trade deals, de-escalation of long-running foreign conflicts, accountability for our NATO allies, and a radically different approach to North Korea. He joined those game-changing initiatives with the basic conservative principles of lower taxes and deregulation, sending forth the unmistakable message that America was once again open for business, and produced a vibrant economy with full employment, which only a pandemic could bring low.
It is no secret that many people pulled the lever for Trump in 2016 only because of the Supreme Court. And Trump’s judicial work is complete after naming three conservative justices and creating a constitutionalist majority on the high court for a generation or more. And with the help of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he also pushed through lower court judges at a breakneck pace, filling roughly a third of the federal judiciary.
So why should Trumpists limit their lamentations over the reported outcome of this election? Well, though cold comfort, second terms generally don’t end well, especially for presidents on a mission who lay it all on the line from day one. The moment a chief executive is re-elected, he becomes a lame duck with dwindling political influence, and the momentum and exhausting pace of the first four years subside slowly but surely. Even in the near-legendary presidency of Ronald Reagan, the second term created more problems (Iran-Contra) than solutions. In the case of Bill Clinton (impeachment), George W. Bush (disastrous war), and Barack Obama (midterm repudiation), the years after re-election only imperiled the legacy of each president.
It’s true that one item on Trump’s agenda remains unfinished, beyond the partially completed southern border wall that now extends more than 400 miles, and that is Trump’s vision of a massive infrastructure upgrade. But there is little to suggest that, even though it is also in their own best interests, Democrats would do any less to obstruct a deal with him in a second term than they did in his first.
Trump voters understandably feel wounded and aggrieved at what they almost universally consider a stolen election. Eight years of draining the Swamp and a bold America-first agenda is what they so desperately wanted. And yet, even if the professional politician from Delaware is sitting in the Oval Office after the fog clears and the dust finally settles from this election, they will soon realize that, despite getting four years instead of eight, Trump’s most important work is already done.
Read more from Tim Donner.
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