I have mentioned several times in recent days my anxiety about the election less than two weeks from now, one that is caused less by my sense of the likely outcome than the gravity of the stakes involved. This morning, as authorities are still finding new bombs sent to a growing list of Trump targets, President Trump went on Twitter not only to blame the media for the climate of anger and violence but to issue what can, in the climate of the bomb scares, only be deemed a threat. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
As a friend pointed out yesterday, 2016 can be seen as a fluke. A series of perfect storm factors coming together to make Donald Trump President with a minority of the popular vote and razor thin margins in three critical states. 2018, if it’s a winning election for the Republicans, will be a choice. A ratification of everything we’ve seen over the last two years. That will be a reality we’ll all have to contend with for what it says about the state of the country. It will send a signal abroad that this is now the American political reality and unquestionably accelerate all the geo-political processes Trump has spurred or which drove him to the White House in the first place.
Domestically the impact will be worse. The political message will be simple: you can do all this stuff and suffer no political consequences. It goes without saying that the climate of violent incitement against the press will accelerate. The President’s ability and willingness to protect himself and his loyalists from the law will grow and be treated as normal. It is difficult to imagine he won’t find a way to end the Mueller probe. At the end of the day, the only real restraint on officeholders isn’t norms or even laws. It’s elections.