Editor’s Note: This is the first in a continuing series of articles that considers — or imagines — what might have happened had major historical events been reversed or turned out differently.
He took the podium for a second time, now familiar and comfortable with the inauguration ceremony he had cherished four years earlier but bracing for the renewed and unceasing hatred a second term was certain to provoke.
Yes, in spite of largely scurrilous attacks on him from the first day he assumed office, and a pandemic of historic proportions that almost derailed a presumed glide path to a second term, Donald Trump had shocked the world again, winning a narrow victory over the default “Not Trump” choice of Democrats, Joe Biden.
It was all a matter of how many voters would be willing to overlook the perceived excesses of Trump’s personality and reward him for keeping his audacious promises with four more years. Biden promised, in as many words, a return to normalcy. But enough voters took that to mean a return to the status quo they had rejected four years earlier that the longtime senator from Delaware went down to defeat in his third and final bid for the ultimate political prize.
In the end, the glaringly obvious decline of this former vice president seemingly hit people hard when it came time to actually cast their vote. Biden was well ahead in most polls leading up to Election Day, but exit polling revealed that his capacity to lead as an aging and compromised career politician was his undoing when it came time for voters to pull the trigger. Even a transparently Trump-deranged, pro-Biden media could not save the old warhorse.
So now, the Trump-America First era had become truly that: not a four-year burst of adrenaline, but an extended and affirmed preference of the American people. Having been elected not once but twice, Trump had finally put to rest the argument that his election in 2016 was merely a fluke or aberration. He had slayed two dynasties — that of Bush and Clinton — and dismembered the establishment at every opportunity, and now all the careerists who never understood but were deeply threatened by the whole MAGA thing would have to figure out how to deal with this freshly emboldened bombastic billionaire for four more long years.
In affirming the America First agenda, the nation would continue down the road less traveled, paved by this break-the-mold chief executive. The southern border wall would be completed by the end of 2022, and Trump’s uniquely aggressive actions at the border, bitterly opposed by Democrats, would now be consolidated into a true sea change in immigration law. This, while the economy would boom once again, buoyed by the confidence of voters who were the beneficiaries of Trump’s COVID-crushing Operation Warp Speed, which likely saved his presidency, and had already seen Trump produce a roaring economy once.
The re-election of Trump sent forth many signals to the world from the American people. First, they were, well, proud to be proud of their country again. They appreciated a president who demanded that his country no longer get ripped off by the rest of the world. They benefited from Trump’s promised but unexpected prosperity and the full employment and energy independence achieved under his watch, offsetting his controversial persona. Oh, and let’s not forget, no new foreign wars. The voters like peace, too, and exit polls showed that voters were wary of Biden’s long history as a war hawk, afraid that as soon as he took office, he would look for a foreign conflict to start or join.
Indeed, the re-election of Trump sent the unmistakable message that America was prepared to move boldly into the future, rejecting the illusion of enhanced security in an even larger nanny state promised by Democrats. The voters resisted the temptation to overcorrect for the endless chaos of the Trump era by just putting a guy like Biden in the White House so he can do the opposite of the old saying — don’t do anything, just sit there.
They chose instead to just say yes to another four years of Trump unmasking the forces of darkness in the Swamp, standing and fighting the reviled uniparty establishment as never before.
After all, this is America. We never run from a fight.
Read more from Tim Donner.