Who Comes after Trump?

Halfway through President Trump's first term in office, the jury is still out on his effectiveness in his quest to "make America great again."

Trump has had some apparent successes: the confirmation of Supreme Court justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the opening of relations and denuclearization talks with North Korea, a national tax cut, and a simplified set of tax deductions.

He has, however, failed to pull the U.S. out of NATO.  Though he has announced troop reductions in Afghanistan and Syria, he has not yet ended American involvement in either war.  And in his biggest humiliation to date, Trump brazenly promised to shut down the government for "years" if necessary to build the wall on the southern border but capitulated after only weeks.

The fact that Trump was willing to even mention these issues in public — along with his opposition to abortion and gun control — has been a victory of sorts for conservatives, given the alternative.

Until now, the fact that Trump is "not Hillary" has been enough.  But it will not be enough forever.  If the election of 2016 was the "Flight 93 Election" (as Michael Anton wrote in the Claremont Review of Books under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus), a vote for Trump was a no-brainer.  Had Hillary stormed the cockpit and seized the controls, America as we understood it would have been finished.  At this point in his presidency, it might be said that Trump wrestled control of the left seat and has succeeded in keeping the plane stable and level, but it is not clear that he knows how to land it (a possibility Anton admitted in his essay) — and the terrorists are still beating on the cockpit door, trying to break it down.  

Trump could lose his grip on the yoke in a number of ways.  He could be impeached; he could lose in 2020; he could — God forbid — be the victim of a Deep State plot worse than what the FBI and Department of Justice have already attempted to do to him.

He could be re-elected and serve a second term.  But the probability of that happening is hardly guaranteed.

Whatever happens, it is worth asking: "Who comes after Trump?"

We know what comes after Trump if the Democrats gain control.  The Trump presidency, be it a success or failure in terms of fulfilling his stated campaign promises, has had the salutary effect of unmasking the Democrats.

They have revealed themselves as the party of late-term abortion if not infanticide; the party of using the national security state apparatus to spy on political opponents and attempt to overturn elections; the party of violating attorney-client privilege to get an opponent; the party of radical gays and transgenderism; the party of radical gun control and Australian-style forcible gun confiscation; the party of anti-white racial demagoguery and "reparations" for slavery; the party of hate crime hoaxes; the party of open borders, unlimited immigration, and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the party of seventy- to ninety-percent income taxes on the rich; the party of socialized medicine and making private insurance illegal; the party of outlawing all fossil fuels (and eliminating airline travel) within ten years, and the party of telling people not to have children to "save the planet."

In other words, they are the party of unlimited socialist dictatorship — the United States Constitution, the enumerated powers, and the Bill of Rights be damned.

But who comes after Trump on the right, to continue his efforts to stave off the disaster that a Democratic-controlled government will surely bring?

Here, the situation is almost equally grave.  To a large extent, Trump is a man without a party.  Republican support for Trump has been tepid at best, if not outright hostile.  Failed 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney's first public act as U.S. senator from Utah was not to call out the baby-killers and the gun-grabbers in the Democratic Party, but rather to disparage Trump.  The Republican Party lost its biggest House majority since the 1920s in last year's midterms and barely hung on to the Senate.  Speaker Paul Ryan failed to deliver border wall funding for Trump before voluntarily leaving office — the second Republican speaker in a row to simply quit rather than continue the fight.  (Contrast that with the indefatigable Nancy Pelosi, who like a vampire rose from the crypt to reclaim the title of speaker after losing it in 2010).  The Republicans have proven to be the party of go-along-to-get-along country-clubbers, not political street fighters.

It is, in fact, useful to think of Trump not so much as a Republican, but as if he were a third-party candidate who came out of nowhere and won the presidency to the surprise of both established parties.

The last actual third-party candidate to do that was Lincoln, the first president from the then-upstart Republican Party in 1860.  Lincoln's victory put the Whigs out of business forever — but it also sparked the Civil War and ultimately cost him his life.  Nonetheless, Lincoln's Republicans went on to national dominance, wining fourteen of eighteen presidential elections between 1860 and 1928.

But it is far from clear that Trump has Lincolnesque coattails.  Trump was sui generis in 2016.  He had money and name recognition, two things needed to succeed in politics.  Most candidates need the media and a party to supply those things; Trump didn't.  How many other people out there have Trump's notoriety, money, pugilistic attitude, and willingness to take on The System if Trump fails — or is taken out?  Who else is willing to sacrifice his own money and public image to the unfathomable abuse the left and the media have heaped upon Trump?

No one that I am aware of.  Trump needs to establish a long-term movement and a permanent majority — and it is not certain that he is able to do so.  Meanwhile, demographics are steadily favoring a Democratic future.

With Democrats in control of the House, it is evident that Trump's wall to stop illegal immigration will not get built.  Nor will legal immigration be limited — in fact, Trump is in favor of it.  Yet immigration, both legal and illegal, will eventually flip Texas and Florida blue and ensure Democratic hegemony for the foreseeable future.

So the question remains: will the Trump presidency "make America great again," or will it be a temporary stay of execution from what the Democrats have planned the next time they gain power?

The stakes remain as high for 2020 as they were in 2016.  Maybe higher.

America itself still hangs in the balance.

Halfway through President Trump's first term in office, the jury is still out on his effectiveness in his quest to "make America great again."

Trump has had some apparent successes: the confirmation of Supreme Court justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the opening of relations and denuclearization talks with North Korea, a national tax cut, and a simplified set of tax deductions.

He has, however, failed to pull the U.S. out of NATO.  Though he has announced troop reductions in Afghanistan and Syria, he has not yet ended American involvement in either war.  And in his biggest humiliation to date, Trump brazenly promised to shut down the government for "years" if necessary to build the wall on the southern border but capitulated after only weeks.

The fact that Trump was willing to even mention these issues in public — along with his opposition to abortion and gun control — has been a victory of sorts for conservatives, given the alternative.

Until now, the fact that Trump is "not Hillary" has been enough.  But it will not be enough forever.  If the election of 2016 was the "Flight 93 Election" (as Michael Anton wrote in the Claremont Review of Books under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus), a vote for Trump was a no-brainer.  Had Hillary stormed the cockpit and seized the controls, America as we understood it would have been finished.  At this point in his presidency, it might be said that Trump wrestled control of the left seat and has succeeded in keeping the plane stable and level, but it is not clear that he knows how to land it (a possibility Anton admitted in his essay) — and the terrorists are still beating on the cockpit door, trying to break it down.  

Trump could lose his grip on the yoke in a number of ways.  He could be impeached; he could lose in 2020; he could — God forbid — be the victim of a Deep State plot worse than what the FBI and Department of Justice have already attempted to do to him.

He could be re-elected and serve a second term.  But the probability of that happening is hardly guaranteed.

Whatever happens, it is worth asking: "Who comes after Trump?"

We know what comes after Trump if the Democrats gain control.  The Trump presidency, be it a success or failure in terms of fulfilling his stated campaign promises, has had the salutary effect of unmasking the Democrats.

They have revealed themselves as the party of late-term abortion if not infanticide; the party of using the national security state apparatus to spy on political opponents and attempt to overturn elections; the party of violating attorney-client privilege to get an opponent; the party of radical gays and transgenderism; the party of radical gun control and Australian-style forcible gun confiscation; the party of anti-white racial demagoguery and "reparations" for slavery; the party of hate crime hoaxes; the party of open borders, unlimited immigration, and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the party of seventy- to ninety-percent income taxes on the rich; the party of socialized medicine and making private insurance illegal; the party of outlawing all fossil fuels (and eliminating airline travel) within ten years, and the party of telling people not to have children to "save the planet."

In other words, they are the party of unlimited socialist dictatorship — the United States Constitution, the enumerated powers, and the Bill of Rights be damned.

But who comes after Trump on the right, to continue his efforts to stave off the disaster that a Democratic-controlled government will surely bring?

Here, the situation is almost equally grave.  To a large extent, Trump is a man without a party.  Republican support for Trump has been tepid at best, if not outright hostile.  Failed 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney's first public act as U.S. senator from Utah was not to call out the baby-killers and the gun-grabbers in the Democratic Party, but rather to disparage Trump.  The Republican Party lost its biggest House majority since the 1920s in last year's midterms and barely hung on to the Senate.  Speaker Paul Ryan failed to deliver border wall funding for Trump before voluntarily leaving office — the second Republican speaker in a row to simply quit rather than continue the fight.  (Contrast that with the indefatigable Nancy Pelosi, who like a vampire rose from the crypt to reclaim the title of speaker after losing it in 2010).  The Republicans have proven to be the party of go-along-to-get-along country-clubbers, not political street fighters.

It is, in fact, useful to think of Trump not so much as a Republican, but as if he were a third-party candidate who came out of nowhere and won the presidency to the surprise of both established parties.

The last actual third-party candidate to do that was Lincoln, the first president from the then-upstart Republican Party in 1860.  Lincoln's victory put the Whigs out of business forever — but it also sparked the Civil War and ultimately cost him his life.  Nonetheless, Lincoln's Republicans went on to national dominance, wining fourteen of eighteen presidential elections between 1860 and 1928.

But it is far from clear that Trump has Lincolnesque coattails.  Trump was sui generis in 2016.  He had money and name recognition, two things needed to succeed in politics.  Most candidates need the media and a party to supply those things; Trump didn't.  How many other people out there have Trump's notoriety, money, pugilistic attitude, and willingness to take on The System if Trump fails — or is taken out?  Who else is willing to sacrifice his own money and public image to the unfathomable abuse the left and the media have heaped upon Trump?

No one that I am aware of.  Trump needs to establish a long-term movement and a permanent majority — and it is not certain that he is able to do so.  Meanwhile, demographics are steadily favoring a Democratic future.

With Democrats in control of the House, it is evident that Trump's wall to stop illegal immigration will not get built.  Nor will legal immigration be limited — in fact, Trump is in favor of it.  Yet immigration, both legal and illegal, will eventually flip Texas and Florida blue and ensure Democratic hegemony for the foreseeable future.

So the question remains: will the Trump presidency "make America great again," or will it be a temporary stay of execution from what the Democrats have planned the next time they gain power?

The stakes remain as high for 2020 as they were in 2016.  Maybe higher.

America itself still hangs in the balance.