election anxiety countdown

18 Days: Prognostication

Somehow I’ve gone all day without hearing any sound bites from last night’s dueling town halls. Biden and Trump appeared on separate networks because Trump rejected the perfectly reasonable precaution of a remote debate amid his treatment for Covid-19. I read a few reports about the evening. They tell me Trump was an embarrassment to the country. They tell me he lied. They tell me he refused to disavow the conspiracy that inspired a gunman to show up at my favorite punk rock pizza shop. YouTube has just this week banned the conspiracy; the F.B.I. has labeled it a domestic terrorism threat.

The president professed to have no knowledge of the group, and as a result could not disavow it, but then demonstrated specific knowledge of one of its core conspiracy theories.

The New York Times

In the days after his 2017 inauguration, Trump’s bizarre outbursts would take over the news cycle day after day, outburst after outburst. Now the world barely takes notice.

I am trying not to get ahead of myself, but in my morning writing I began to picture Trump after Biden wins.

I imagine him aging rapidly, leaving the White House the next day for Mar-a-Lago without waiting for January 20 and Biden’s inauguration. The Republicans in Congress and in Trump’s cabinet will continue with their machinations in the remaining lame duck weeks. They may send bills for Trump to sign in hiding in Florida.

Trump will continue to Tweet at odd hours in all-caps rants. But we will ignore them, especially after January 20 when they are no longer the words of a man who can blow up the world.

It feels wrong to imagine this before Election Day and to put it in writing. All effort needs to go into getting out the vote. But these are just words. And perhaps superstition runs the other way. Perhaps imagining and insisting on another world is the more powerful superstition?

Will Trump’s tweets from Mar-a-Lago maintain their power over the Republican base after he’s out? Will he run again in 2024 out of spite and for vengeance? Would he block a less-insane Republican from getting the nomination next time around? Nobody has the stomach for more of him in politics. Except, possibly, the people who vote in Republican primaries.

Four years from now, all the legal tactics, bureaucratic stalling and excuses will have churned relentlessly forward. We will all be sick of hearing about Trump’s scandals, but journalists and government investigators will continue to track down the answers to unresolved questions. Trump must know that reality T.V. doesn’t end with loose threads unresolved.

And then I thought about Biden. He is up for the job. He will right the ship. He is not young, but he’s been there before, he knows to surround himself with experts, to trust scientists, to take problems seriously and show empathy for people who can’t afford an Acela ticket (never mind a private jet, a golden escalator). And Kamala is sharp and ready.

I pictured this coming January 20. A solemn inauguration day without crowds because of the pandemic. Will they even build the stands on the capital steps? Instead of attending, Trump will not attend. He will tweet from Mar-a-Lago bragging about the size of his small inauguration all over again. At noon we will be done with him.

I thought ahead to 2028 and 2032. The Trump empire’s tax scandals and other misdeeds have forced the sale of Mar-a-Lago. All the towers that bear that name have been sold and rebranded, or stand in neglect, birds’ nests obscuring the gold lettering. The ex-President still uses Twitter, but social media users have moved on to other platforms. Trump is paying back his debts by selling personalized Tweets at a dollar a pop.

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