For many people, the prospect of what might happen if Donald Trump wins a second term is too awful to contemplate. But, as we are witnessing with the coronavirus, not contemplating scenarios that have at least some chance of happening is a grave mistake. Indeed, it’s a mistake that helped elect Trump in the first place.
Ideally, the press corps would be hard at work exploring this question. Alas, it is not. In the thousands of presidential campaign stories that have been published this year, you will be hard pressed to find much reporting or informed speculation about what policies Trump might pursue if he’s reelected, or what the consequences might be if he were successful in enacting them. That’s not because such things aren’t knowable in advance. If that were the problem, political reporters wouldn’t have spent the last six months gaming out which candidates were, say, likely to win which primaries. The real reason campaign journalists don’t do this kind of work is that it’s not what they’re trained to do—and, perhaps, it’s not what most people want to read.
We think our readers are different. So we gathered a distinguished group of area experts and beat reporters. We told them to imagine that, come November of 2020, Trump wins the Electoral College and the balance of power in Congress remains unchanged; Republicans hold the Senate and Democrats hold the House. Then, we asked them to think through the hitherto unthinkable: What will Trump aim to do, and what could he realistically get away with, if given another four years in power? —The Editors