We need to brace for the possibility of a second term as president for Donald J. Trump.
Yes, the former president faces a rash of indictments, the most serious of which arrived Tuesday. Special counsel Jack Smith has accused Mr. Trump of seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election – in essence, of attempting a coup.
Yet for many Republicans, Mr. Trump can do no wrong, and every indictment is, for them, further proof that the Deep State is conspiring to prevent their messiah from returning to the White House.
A New York Times/Siena poll released Monday gives the former president an enormous, 37-percentage-point lead over his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, among Republican voters and an astronomical lead over the rest of the field. It appears the Republican presidential primaries may be over five months before they even begin.
Since President Joe Biden is virtually assured of the Democratic nomination, next year’s election is almost certain to be a rematch between the two. Mr. Biden is favoured to win. After all, 81 million people voted for him in 2020, compared with 74 million for Mr. Trump. It’s hard to imagine many Biden voters switching their support to Mr. Trump four years later.
But turnout could be a factor. The President’s health could fail. (Mr. Biden is 80 years old; Mr. Trump is 77.) Or some as-yet-unanticipated crisis could grip the presidency. Mr. Trump could win the electoral college despite losing the popular vote, as he did in 2016.
Trump supporters believe that a second term would give them an opportunity to truly dismantle what they call The Swamp and what the rest of us call the federal public service.
They have no respect for the science of global warming, and would reverse the Biden administration’s efforts to wean the United States off dependence on fossil fuels.
A Trump administration would likely end support for Ukraine in its struggle to throw back the Russian invasion. American support for NATO could wither.
In truth, however, it is difficult to predict what Mr. Trump might do given a second term. As John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, observed, “Trump has neither philosophy nor policies and his potential to make stunning policy reversals, at times not even realizing it, is boundless.”
The worst aspects of a second Trump presidency might be its impact on the Department of Justice. Mr. Trump and his supporters maintain that the department and the FBI are conducting a partisan witch hunt against him.
“This indictment is nothing more than a declaration of war against American voters and their constitutional right to free speech,” wrote John Daniel Davidson in the Federalist, ignoring the reality that the indictment concerns not what Mr. Trump said, but what he did in an effort to remain in office in defiance of the election outcome.
In retaliation, Mr. Trump as president would no doubt seek to indict Joe Biden and to pardon himself from any criminal conviction. “The entire term would be consumed by the battle over Trump’s project to use the power of the presidency to protect himself from the consequences of his alleged crimes,” David Frum wrote in the Atlantic.
Many Trump supporters appear to have no faith in American democracy, or desire to preserve it. They demand loyalty to the man, not to the Constitution, and they will do whatever it takes to keep him in the White House.
When, according to the indictment, the deputy White House counsel informed one of Mr. Trump’s co-conspirators that if the president remained in office illegally there would be riots in every major city, the co-conspirator replied: “That’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”
Against this assault on American democracy, there is little the Canadian government can practically do, other than seek to strengthen the bonds of the Western alliance, in hopes that the alliance will somehow endure four more years of this feckless, dangerous demagogue, should that come to pass.
The greatest challenge of a second Trump term would be surviving in a world in which the United States is no longer a full democracy, and in a state approaching civil war.
And all we can do is watch.