It’s time to get serious about the possibility that Donald Trump will run the table, get the Republican nomination, and ultimately win the presidency. Contrary to all the hyperventilation on the left, President Trump won’t be the end of the world or even a great catastrophe. Let’s take a deep breath and look at some upsides.
- Think of a Trump presidency as an extension of pizza, pasta, and tiramisu. These Italian culinary delights have penetrated American culture, so why not welcome the buffoonery of Italian politics? Trump is very much like a combination of Benito Mussolini light and Silvio Berlusconi. And I really do mean light on the Mussolini part. Liberal panic aside, Trump is no fascist. He’s way too narcissistic to embrace any ideology that isn’t exclusively about him. So the great leader part of fascism, sure, but the rest of it doesn’t even appear in Trump’s stream of consciousness. He’s definitely Silvio Berlusconi minus the fashion sense. No Italian would be caught dead in that haircut. But like Berlusconi, he will be an endless source of material for cartoonists and comics, far more so than any previous president. Liberal Americans will be laughing their asses off, and conservative Americans will be tearing their hair out.
- Trump’s triumph could mean the end of the Republican Party and would be a serious body blow to right-wing politics in general. After years of preparing the ground to turn the clock back on the New Deal, ideological conservatives get a loud-mouth buffoon who doesn’t know Ayn Rand from Pope Francis. Ideologically Trump is entirely unpredictable, and right-wing ideologues know it. Throughout his primary campaign he has slaughtered one right-wing cow after another. His contempt for George W. Bush has been worthy of Noam Chomsky. He has paid lip service to the pro-life camp, but he also praised Planned Parenthood for doing important things for women’s health. It’s hard to imagine a greater heresy for the right. His praise for Planned Parenthood prompted right-wing blogger Erik Erikson to declare: “I have become convinced that Donald Trump’s pro-life conversion is a conversion of convenience. Life is the foremost cause in how I vote. Therefore I will not be voting for Donald Trump at all. Ever.” Unfortunately for Erikson, racism and xenophobia are bigger vote getters on the right than fetuses.
- But the racists and xenophobes will also be mightily disappointed by Trump in the White House. Nothing Trump does or says is based on principle. If he calls Mexicans rapists and talks about banning Muslims, it isn’t because he really has anything against Mexicans or Muslims; he simply realizes instinctively that racism and anti-Muslim bigotry help win over bigots and evangelicals. But once he’s President, he will have bigger fish to fry, and if it advances his interests—his, not the country’s—he will fry them in a spicy salsa at a festive party in the courtyard of a mosque.