How Will This Nightmare End?

The question that has haunted many of us from the day Donald Trump was inaugurated is to wonder how this nightmare will end. Over the last 26 months, we’ve seen discussion about everything from impeachment to a 25th Amendment remedy to suggestions that he would resign. By now, it should be clear that the latter two are off the table. And while impeachment is still a possibility, the prospect that Senate Republicans would convict the president is pretty slim.

If we’ve learned nothing over the last two years it should be that the one time the president told the truth was when he said that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on 5th Avenue and his base would still support him. As long as that is the case, Republicans have demonstrated that they are too cowardly to hold him accountable. Here is what Richard North Patterson wrote about that at The Bulwark.

For these Vichy Republicans, principles are pretense. As the last two years have shown, beneath their obligatory lip service they don’t give much of a damn about anything but power. Not deficits, or fiscal prudence. Not NATO, or the liberal global order. Nor, despite their plaints, will they seriously impede whatever Trump does about Syria or Afghanistan or, for that matter, Saudi Arabia’s Mad Prince.

Most elected Republicans don’t care—at least in public—about Trump’s constant lies, or attacks on the rule of law. They don’t care if Russia owns him, or that he conflates governance with his private business interests. They don’t much care that he’s a race-baiter and a demagogue who coarsens the national discourse and divides Americans from each other. Except for their own political discomfiture, they don’t care that he shut down our government and falsified reality to fund his mythological wall. While they certainly fear the Republican base, most party insiders don’t care how badly Trump deludes them.

If all of those remedies are off the table, the only thing left is for a Democrat to beat Trump in the 2020 election. That possibility was probably on the president’s mind on Tuesday night when he said this during a speech to House Republicans.

The president wants his fellow Republicans to be “more paranoid” about vote tallies and suggested that they actually share his concern, but are too cowardly to say so. When it comes to Trump, it becomes more difficult every day to elicit a shock response to something he says, but that one should do the trick. The President of the United States is activity undermining our trust in the electoral process.

On some level, this is Trump acknowledging what he can’t say directly: a blue wave swept the country in the 2018 midterms and poses a threat to himself and his Republican enablers in 2020. Because losing means the obliteration of his ego, the president must craft a delusion in which that didn’t—and can’t—happen. So he is prepared to spread paranoia about vote tallies to defend himself from the threat. Beyond serving as an indication about the status of his mental health, it is yet another example of how this man regularly puts his own ego gratification above what is best for the country.

We’re already seeing signs that Trump isn’t the only one who will fan the flames of paranoia to undermine our electoral process. The results of some races in Wisconsin on Tuesday were very close. In response, Scott Walker and Grover Norquist joined the president’s bandwagon.

This suggests that, even if Trump loses in 2020, neither he nor his Republican enablers will be prepared to go quietly into the night. So if anyone tells you that they know how this nightmare ends, don’t believe them. No one knows. All I can says is that if I was Chief Justice John Roberts, it wouldn’t simply be the prospect of Obamacare and the release of the Mueller report winding up on my plate that would keep me up at night.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.