Why a Second Trump Term Will Not Be a Horror Movie.

AuthorGlastris, Paul
PositionEditor's Note - Editorial

I'm a big fan of violent suspense movies: The Bourne Identity, Fight Club, Winter's Bone. But horror films? Not so much. The reason, I think, is that horror movies are all about experiencing the feeling of helpless terror, which isn't my thing. The whole point of a thriller, by contrast, is to identify with protagonists who have enough agency and wit to assert some measure of control over the situation, no matter how dreadful.

To many people, the Trump presidency has felt like one long horror movie. To me, it's been more like a thriller: disorienting, appalling, emotionally wrenching, but not disempowering. Almost every insane or diabolical decision the president has made has been met with countermoves--by the courts, civil servants, voters, Nancy Pelosi--that have frequently lessened the impact and fortified my faith that all is not lost.

The novel coronavirus is the latest case in point. Trump's willful dismissal of the crisis in its early weeks will almost certainly result in many unnecessary deaths. But the wise words and prudent actions of others, from the National Institutes of Health's Anthony Fauci to ordinary citizens, give me hope that we can "flatten the curve."

Similarly, the possibility that Trump could be reelected is, for many people, like a horror flick too frightening to watch. The essays in our cover package certainly provide evidence for maximum alarm (see "What If Trump Wins?," page 23).

But there are reasons to think that a second Trump term would not be as apocalyptic as we might imagine. One reason is that the direst scenarios our essayists lay out--the end of Obamacare, a slashing of the safety net--are likely to happen only if Trump is able to continue to pack the courts with conservatives. But that presumes that the GOP holds the Senate. This has not been a sure bet since vulnerable Republican senators like Maine's Susan Collins supported him in the impeachment trial. It is even less so now that the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee is moderate Joe Biden--and not Bernie Sanders, who down-ballot Democrats rightly see as a potential drag on their chances.

Another reason is that second-term presidents almost always find themselves in a weakened position. Sometimes it's because foolish decisions they made in their first terms catch up to them in the second term--think George W. Bush putting the singularly unqualified Michael Brown in charge of FEMA two years ahead of Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes it's because...

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