What happens if President Donald Trump not only survives impeachment, but goes on to win a second term? It’s a prospect that chills Democrats to the bone — and for good reason.
On Monday, Politico mapped out a detailed, hypothetical scenario in which Trump wins re-election — similar to their 2016 scenario of what would happen if Trump was elected in the first place — and some of the things that people could expect in the coming years. The result would be, as former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean put it, “an era of authoritarianism.”
For a start, the forecasters noted, Trump would likely feel empowered to defy Congress more than ever — and Democrats, if they still have the House, would be dispirited, chastened, and in leadership transition. Nancy Pelosi would face unavoidable pressure to step down, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) would likely take the gavel — and Jeffries would banish talk of a second impeachment until and unless Democrats sweep the Senate in 2022.
Meanwhile, Trump, though his domestic and foreign policy agenda would remain scattered and unfocused, would likely reshape the executive branch even more in his image.
“A new crop of loyalists gets hired, including now-former Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and Doug Collins, as well as Lindsey Graham, who steps down from the Senate to become the new Defense secretary,” wrote Politico’s forecaster. “Brad Parscale moves from campaign manager to serve as White House chief of staff—but only after Trump leaves Mick Mulvaney’s former job open for six months. Trump promises his longtime adviser Stephen Miller an appointment to run the Homeland Security Department in an acting capacity during the close of the second term, when Senate confirmation won’t matter for a lame duck administration. And the president also raids his reelection campaign for new staff, believing they will be more loyal than the Frankenstein crew from the Republican National Committee that he hastily assembled in 2017.”
He would also try to exert payback on every House and Senate Republican who voted to impeach or remove him when the 2022 midterm elections come around.
Meanwhile, the forecasters wrote, Trump and Mitch McConnell will continue taking over the federal judiciary, although the Clinton-appointed justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will still fight to hang on — more likely Supreme Court retirements to watch for would be Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. By this point, the court will have in any case handed down more right-wing rulings immunizing the president from congressional oversight.
The picture wouldn’t be all rosy for Trump though. “He’s starting to sweat the U.S. economy in the months after the long-anticipated recession became official that April with the second consecutive quarter of negative growth,” wrote the forecasters. “He tweets 10 times a day about how Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell is responsible. He gives one of his remaining first-term holdovers, national economic adviser Larry Kudlow, one more chance to pitch a middle-class tax cut in the hope that can turn things around.”
But one of the other key effects of a 2020 Trump win would be that, with Trump still helming the party, he would be a kingmaker in the 2024 GOP nomination — and the forecasters predict he will use that power to try to form a family dynasty.
“After dropping hints in private for months, he finally sends out a tweet on July 4, 2022, that he doesn’t support Mike Pence’s presidential ambitions,” they wrote. “‘Great guy, TREMENDOUS veep, but it’s time for some Beautiful NEW BLOOD,’ he writes. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul back out by Labor Day, and the field is cleared for Ivanka Trump to take the party’s nomination 17 months before anyone has participated in a caucus or primary.”
All of these things have been hinted at in varying degrees, either directly by Trump advisers, by economic trends, or by the way that Trump is known to respond to adversity. But the bottom line is that with Trump’s second act, the few forces still preserving American institutions would come apart.