American Decline

Trump 2024 could be American democracy’s zero hour

By Damon Linker, The Week

Making predictions about the political future is a fool’s game. Pundits do it a lot because it’s fun and easy, and because there are effectively no professional consequences for getting things wrong.

But thinking about how events might unfold need not be entirely frivolous — provided that pundits are honest and up-front about the assumptions and conditionals underlying predictions. If X happens, then Y will take place; and if Y happens, then A, B, or C could transpire — with A being benign, B being worrisome, and C being catastrophic. This kind of analysis can be fruitful in clarifying the various paths and range of possibilities that lie before us, even when things don’t play out exactly as the pundit foresaw.

In that spirit, I’d like to venture a conditional prediction: If Donald Trump runs for president again in 2024, the United States could find itself in a politically perilous situation by mid-November that year.

If Joe Biden (or, in the event that he doesn’t run, Kamala Harris or another Democrat) wins decisively, by wide margins in multiple states, we will probably be fine. Meanwhile, if Trump prevails comfortably, American democracy will go on well enough, despite the turbulence of a second Trump administration.

But if the outcome of the vote in November 2024 is close enough that Trump can launch another “stop the steal” operation in numerous swing states, things are going to get ugly fast. In that case, American democracy itself could be facing its zero hour.


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