The Greatest Threat Posed by Trump

If Donald Trump storms through Iowa and easily seizes the G.O.P. nomination, as presumed, and then goes on to win back the presidency, his victory will trigger a wild political and legal melee. The primary motivating purpose of his campaign is vengeance. He’s told his base that he is their retribution and has promised to “totally obliterate” the deep state. If he faces protests, he may immediately invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy troops, under his command, to American cities.

Although we experienced a related melee during his first term, a second would be substantially worse. Instead of offering an internally divided administration, in which a variety of responsible aides and appointees struggled to contain Trump’s worst impulses, a second term would present him in his purest form. His MAGA base would replace the Federalist Society as the screener of his judicial appointments, and there are now a sufficient number of pure Trump sycophants to staff his White House from top to bottom.

I dread the division and conflict of a second Trump term, and I don’t minimize the possibility of Trump doing permanent political damage to the Republic. But the problem I’m most concerned about isn’t the political melee, it’s the ongoing cultural transformation of red America, a transformation that a second Trump term could well render unstoppable.

To put the matter as simply as possible: Eight years of bitter experience have taught us that supporting Trump degrades the character of his core supporters. There are still millions of reluctant Trump voters, people who’ve retained their kindness, integrity and good sense even as they cast a ballot for the past and almost certainly future G.O.P. nominee. I have friends and family members who vote for Trump, and I love them dearly. But the most enduring legacy of a second Trump term could well be the conviction on the part of millions of Americans that Trumpism isn’t just a temporary political expediency, but the model for Republican political success and — still worse — the way that God wants Christian believers to practice politics.

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