“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
In this much-cited verse from the Old Testament, Esther is on the verge of winning a beauty contest (bet you didn’t know there was such a thing in the Bible). She is about to become the chosen queen of the Persian King Ahasuerus, who is committed to destroying the Jews but is blissfully unaware of Esther’s Jewish heritage. She goes on to serve as the protector of her people.
For such a time as this. What an apt statement for the presidency of Donald Trump — not so much because he bears any resemblance to Queen Esther, of course. And not because Trump has the qualities of a biblical character. But much like Esther’s exploitation of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save her people, Trump arrives in the White House at the only juncture in American history he could possibly the presidency.
He comes like a wrecking ball to the seat of power, in the process breaking all the rules applied to his forty-four predecessors. Foremost among those broken rules: he is wealthy beyond measure (not that the presidency has been filled with paupers) but owes nothing to anyone. He thus has a clear field ahead of him to try and achieve things the career politicians have been either unwilling, unable or afraid to attempt.
He has nothing to lose and will do exactly what he believes must be done. That is what makes him so very dangerous to the established order in general and the left in particular.
As unprecedented as the Trump presidency is in the full sweep of American history, we have also witnessed unprecedented defiance against his actions and proclamations. These have ranged from violent protests threatening unending disruption to life as we know it, to the discredited and stultified professional politicians denouncing the President’s every move. Then there’s the “deep state” permanent bureaucracy which believes it can outpoint, outlast and undermine any president.
This climate of unparalleled polarization begs the question of whether Trump’s victory has changed politics forever, or will ultimately result in such exhaustion among the voters that they are inclined to return to politics as usual once his four or eight years in the White House are complete.
The argument that the genie is out of the bottle, the toothpaste is out of the tube, and the jig is up is more than defensible. Now that the public has come to a renewed realization of the power they have to topple the establishment they have come to despise, why would they return to the ways of old? If a crude, unfiltered and bombastic outsider like Trump can be voted into the most powerful position in the entire world, then the citizenry must feel freshly empowered to take those words “we the people” more seriously than ever.
But this could also backfire if Trump fatigue sets in and the President fails to deliver on the myriad promises he has made to “Make America Great Again.” After all, Donald Trump is an experiment in American democracy. Nothing more, nothing less. Yes, there is much hope generated by his bold reform agenda, a rising stock market, the steady stream of encouraging announcements about jobs and a mood of optimism rising according to the polls. But this could all go south if the battering of Trump by the long list of people and institutions committed to undermining him have the effect of Chinese water torture on the nation writ large.
Much has rightfully been made of those now-legendary blue collar voters behind the blue wall of the Midwest, who would seem unlikely to return to their Democrat roots based on what they’ve witnessed since the election — Democrats doubling down on the losing leftist hand they played in the election. But we should not forget that those voters were hardly alone: Sixty-two million Americans pulled the lever for Trump, and the question of whether Trump’s election represents a permanent change in politics may well rest in the hands of the voters who opted for him reluctantly or only because they could not stomach Hillary Clinton.
We should remember that the election of Ronald Reagan was seen by many as a sign of profound change in the political process. But along came his successor, George H.W. Bush, and business as usual made a comeback. Similarly, Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 was viewed at the time as another significant turning point in American political history. But it turned out to be a one-off, as evidenced by the repudiation of his policies in the last election.
Of course, just the fact that this question of whether the last election represents permanent change is open for debate is, by itself, indicative of how radical the decision made by the American people on November 8, 2016 really was.
As we move through the inevitably tumultuous years of the Donald J. Trump presidency, the American people will ultimately evaluate whether this bold gamble has come up aces, or snake eyes. And they will then decide either that Trump is the leading edge of a permanent transformation of the American political system, or that the old ways of politics were not as bad as they once thought.