2024 vision

The Trump Presidency, Eight Years On

Protesters in front of the White House in Washington, District of Columbia.
In da house.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A British historian imagines how people would think about two terms with Donald Trump as president, if he were to win the elections in the United States.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Donald Trump is the leading Republican presidential candidate though his party is divided over whether he should stand.
    • The presidential elections in the United States take place on November 8.
    • Comments by Mr. Trump, a populist billionaire, about foreign and domestic issues have caused concern among leaders worldwide.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

From the vantage point of 2024, as President Trump prepares to run for His third term in the White House, the events of 2016 have a certain air of inevitability about them. It is easy to forget—as we celebrate The Donald’s masterful decision to repeal presidential term limits by executive order—that it was only by a series of flukes that Mr. Trump became president in the first place.

Had the liberal and conservative television networks given Him less air-time; had there been fewer candidates for the Republican nomination; had more of them followed Jeb Bush’s lead by withdrawing from the race when it was clear they could not win; had the Democrats not made the mistake of nominating Hillary Clinton shortly before her indictment—in any one of these scenarios, it would have been much harder for a complete political outsider like The Donald to become our leader and to Make America Great Again.

As He has!

The fact of the matter was that voting for a red-faced blowhard in an even redder baseball cap was an act of rebellion.

The brokered Republican convention was of course supposed to finish The Donald off. True, he didn’t have the 1,237 delegates needed to sew up the nomination, but none of his three rivals—Rubio, Cruz and Kasich—was even close. When the insiders tried to foist Mitt Romney on the party, there was a riot. (Paul Ryan would have been the smarter choice.) This wasn’t 1948, when you could “broker” your way to the nomination. I can still smell the teargas after the Trumpists with their red baseball caps stormed the convention center; it took me a while to figure out that the police were gassing the delegates, not the Trumpists. The Donald’s acceptance speech that night was one of his greatest. “That was beautiful,” He said over and over again, with the cops cheering him on.

I guess we’ll all remember the night of November 8, 2016, as long as we live. A bunch of us were drinking gin at Bloomberg’s campaign headquarters, which had all the ambience of a morgue. There was a hell of a lot of wealth in the room that night—“So this is where the super-PACs came to die,” I remember thinking—but it just proved that no amount of money could withstand the populist surge. There were plenty of the so-called public intellectuals there, too. If op-eds decided elections, Bloomberg would be president today.

The Donald swept the South, of course. What no one expected was that He would take not one but all of the big, election-deciding states. Bloomberg and Biden won half of liberal America each. Everyone else voted for The Donald.

It turned out that His message—conveyed in simple, even crude language (the equivalent of a fourth-grader, according to a one elitist analysis of his vocabulary)—was irresistible.

Yes, it was partly the fact that white, working class Americans bought His argument that all their problems were the fault of Mexicans, Muslims and the Chinese. But His victory was not really about specific policies, and it wasn’t just rednecks who voted for Him. The fact of the matter was that voting for a red-faced blowhard in an even redder baseball cap was an act of rebellion even for a lot of Hispanic voters—rebellion against people like us, with our fancy degrees and our fancy zipcodes and our fancy electric cars and our fancy holiday homes. (Remember, this was before I learned to love The Donald.)

In the end it became a kind of morose drinking game. At 9 p.m. they called Texas for Trump (shot). At 11 p.m. it was California (shot). Just fifteen minutes later it was Ohio (shot). I don’t quite remember what time it was when He gave his victory speech, but you couldn’t hear it anyway above the noise of breaking glass.

Nowadays, if you’re careful, you can still meet people who think it was all a horrible mistake. The Wall that ended up keeping Mexicans in rather than out. The tariff war that triggered the Depression. The alliance with Putin that encouraged the Russians to retake the Baltic States. The appointment of His sister to the Supreme Court. The repeal of the first amendment.

But I don’t agree.

Shortly after The Donald’s uncontested re-election in 2020, I remember gazing up at His enormous face. Four years it had taken me to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the red suntan. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of my nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. I had won the victory over myself. I loved The Donald.

 

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.de

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