Trump’s Second Term: Not Worth Freaking Out About.

Image result for trump second term            You’ve heard it so often that you may well believe it’s true: Trump’s second term would be a disaster. For the Democratic Party. For the United States. For democracy itself. “The reelection of Donald Trump,” warns Nancy Pelosi, “would do irreparable damage to the United States.”

            But would it really?

            Exceptions are a normal part of history but the record suggests that Trump would not be one of the few presidents who get much done during their second terms. There are three reasons for the sophomore slump:

            By definition, political honeymoons expire (well) before the end of a president’s first term. Elections have consequences in the form of policy changes that make good on campaign promises. But turning a pledge into reality comes at a cost. Capital gets spent, promises are broken, alliances shatter. Oftentimes, those changes prove disappointing. Recent example: Obamacare. Voters often express their displeasure by punishing the party that controls the White House with losses in Congress in midterm elections.

            The permanent campaign fed by the 24-7 news cycle makes lame ducks gimpier than ever. Before a president gets to take his or her second oath of office, news media and future hopefuls are already looking four years ahead.

            Scandals usually come home to roost during second terms. It’s tough to push laws through a Congress that is dragging your top officials through one investigation after another.

            I’m not suggesting that President Trump deserves a second term. He didn’t deserve a first one. He’s a terrible person and an awful president.

            What I’m saying is that it is more likely than not that he has already done most of the damage that he can do.

            Pundits and Democratic politicians have been pushing a self-serving narrative that implies that everything Trump has done so far was merely a warm-up for the main event, that he would want and be able to go even further if November 2020 goes his way.

            That doesn’t make sense. Who in their right mind thinks Trump has been holding anything back? Which president has failed to go big within a year or two?

            An achievement-filled second term would be a major reversal of recent historical precedent. Things may get worse under four more years of this idiot, but not much worse as the Democratic doomsday cult warns.

            President Obama didn’t get much done during his second term, which began with the bungled rollout of the federal and state “health exchanges.” He signed the Paris climate accord, renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba and negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran. But the ease with which his successor canceled those achievements showcased both the ephemerality of policies pushed through without thorough public propaganda and a general sense that second-term laws and treaties are easy to annul. I hope Obama enjoyed all those trips to Martha’s Vineyard because that’s pretty much all he has to show for term number two.

            George W. Bush screwed up one thing after another during his second four years in office, which was bookended by his hapless non-response to the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and his role in the ineffective and wasteful bailout of Wall Street megabanks during the subprime mortgage financial crisis. What began as an illegal war of aggression against Iraq became, after reelection, a catastrophic quagmire that destroyed America’s international reputation.

            Whatever the merits of Bill Clinton’s legislative and policy agenda— welfare reform, NAFTA and bombing Kosovo would all have happened under a Republican president—having anything substantial or positive to point to was well in the rearview mirror by his second term, when he found himself embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky affair and impeachment.

            Reagan was both senile and bogged down in Iran Contra.

            Even the most productive and prolific president of the 20th century had little to show for his second term. FDR’s legacy would be nearly as impressive today if he’d only served four years.

            Anything could happen. Donald Trump may use his second term to push dramatic changes. If there were another terrorist attack, for example, he would probably try to exploit national shock and fear to the political advantage of the right. Another Supreme Court justice could pass away. On the other hand, Trump is old, clinically obese and out of shape. He might die. It’s doubtful that Mike Pence, a veep chosen for his lack of charisma, would be able to carry on the Trump tradition as more than the head of a caretaker government.

            Analysts differ on what Trump 2.0 might look like. Regardless of their perspective, however, no one expects anything big.

            “If Trump wins a second term this November,” James Pethokoukis writes in The Week, Trump “might propose more tax cuts, but they are more likely to be payroll tax cuts geared toward middle-class workers instead of income tax cuts for rich people and corporations. He’ll look for a new Federal Reserve chair less worried about inflation than current boss Jerome Powell, who deserves at least partial credit for the surging stock market and continuing expansion. Trump will let the national debt soar rather than trimming projected Medicare and Social Security benefits. And there will be more protectionism, although it may be called ‘industrial policy.’”

            “The early outlines of the [second-term] agenda are starting to emerge,” Andrew Restuccia reports in The Wall Street Journal. “Among the issues under consideration: continuing the administration’s efforts to lower prescription drug prices, pushing for a broad infrastructure bill and taking another crack at reforming the country’s immigration system, [White House] officials said.” They also want to reduce the deficit.

            Under Trump, immigration reform is never a good thing. But it’s hard to imagine anything major happening without Democratic cooperation.

            Internationally, many observers expect Trump to continue to nurture his isolationist tendencies. But President Bernie Sanders would probably have similar impulses to focus on America First.

            By all means, vote against Trump. But don’t freak out at the thought of a second term.

            Mourn what happened under the first one instead—and work to reverse it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


  • alex_the_tired
    March 1, 2020 9:17 PM

    At one point you mention ” warns Nancy Pelosi.”
    Frankly, Nancy Pelosi is a doddering imbecile. You should not be quoting her for anything: “Water is wet, gravity exists, the Earth is round,” etc. She impeached Trump on a debate-club topic point (Resolved: the president should not, in the matter before the subcommittee, have engaged in the presumed contradiction of the contradictory presumption because of something he did that we think is super bad) with all the impact of a handful of feathers.
    She’s an enfeebled idiot who was a terrible speaker the first time around, hasn’t improved the second time, and has done yeoman’s work in helping Trump and his manipulators to get away with everything they set their minds on.
    Someone, anyone, take Pelosi aside and get her out of the building.

  • If only the rest of the world was not so strongly influenced by what goes on in your country, Ted – how about, no «bans» or «sanctions» or «military interventions» without representation ? – we could just sit back and watch the farce. Alas….


  • It would almost be worth the life-threatening laughing fit I have predicted for myself for Biden to get the nomination.

    The horror of the then guaranteed His Hairness (aka “Trump”) second term would be, at least, largely obfuscated by entertainment value of “the resistance” redux, featuring the DNC “Magical/Delusional Thinking”*** Tour II.

    I foresee a high-volume, screeching campaign demanding that the Russkis be punished for having imposed on the democracy-loving, two-party system such electoral atrocities as: primary election fakery, the electoral college, gerrymandering, mass voter suppression (gutting of the Voters’ Rights Act), endless corporate (& personal) 
campaign $$$’s and electronic voting machines running proprietary software.

    Of course, if Sanders were to be nominated, and happened to lose the general election, he and his supporters would suffer all the blame since they so childishly think the government of history’s exceptional nation should insure its population: maximal health, top-level education and, at least, the introduction of the notion of the abolition of wage-slavery.
    *** a 2-year course offered at the well-respected “Neville Chamberlain Night School of Negotiation” whose most famous graduate is the illustrious Barack “youse are too stupid/powerless to help” Obumma.

  • Supreme Court nominations would be different.

    Waiting 4 years vs. not waiting 4 years to do something big about climate change makes a big difference.

    • On the other hand, Lee, the difference for the climate between Joseph Robinette Biden and Donald John Trump is, I fear, hardly significant….


    • The nomination of Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee was summarily dismissed from consideration by the Senate.

      Anyone who expects a Democrat aligned with the Oligarchical Corporatocracy to act against the interests of the duopoly has not understood the significance of the preceding.

      Yellow Dog Biden will not be any more successful than Obama with respect to Supreme Court nominations, even if he were to have a miraculous transformation toward service of progressive interests, including attendance to the Climate Disruption problem.

      Vote Bernie.

  • I think the key is control of the Senate. In 2018, Dem voters took back the house, largely as a reaction to Trump. More gains should happen in 2020. If Trump is still in, then more gains in 2020.

    Also, a judge just lit into Attorney General Barr. It is likely there were cover-ups. If it gets out, and they prove Trump did obstruct and conspire, which he did, could be a new ball game. Pence was a co-conspirator.

    Need to fix the voter suppression which caused the first Trump win.

    • «I think the key is control of the Senate.» That may be the case, but Mr Obama achieved little – presuming he was interested in achieving anything, which is not a given – during the first two years of his first administration, during which the Democratic Party enjoyed (?) a majority in both the US House and Senate. (And of course, during that time, he also had the aid of one Joseph Robinette Biden, such as it was….)

      I am given to understand that in the 3 November election to the US Senate, the Republicans are defending some 23 seats, while the Democrats are defending 12 ; i e, the Senate should be the Republicans’ to lose. But hitherto, I’ve not seen any predictions that this will happen ; does any frequenter of these commentary threads know of any Republican Senate seat which is thought to be in danger ?….

      I find it hard to believe that Joseph Robinette Biden will prove able to inspire such a wave of enthusiasm among the US electorate that not only will he be swept into the office of US president, but that he will be able to carry with him the minimum of four seats that flip from Republican to Democrat that would be required to give the latter party as slim majority (if the two Independents who vote with them – Mr Sanders and Mr King are included). What say you who reside in the belly of the beast ?…


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