We’ve all pretty much assumed without thinking about it that November 2020 will mark the last presidential Election Day in which Donald J. Trump appears on the ballot. I mean, yes, some progressives have occasionally expressed fears that the 45th president will try to engineer some extra-constitutional coup that will keep him in office perpetually, but by definition that would preclude another Trump election campaign. If he loses, surely his act will have worn out its welcome, even among Republicans. And for true-blue MAGA folk, Mike Pence has been loyally, even sycophantically waiting in the wings, ready to inherit the movement, as his almighty predecessor retreats to Mar-a-Lago for a well-earned retirement.
But the coronavirus has created at least the possibility of a different scenario. Suppose either the pandemic has not subsided before this fall, or the economy is still in shambles, with little sign of immediate revival. Trump would almost certainly lose — and then blame his defeat on a Chinese virus that was not his fault and that even he could not defeat (particularly with all the resistance he encountered from Radical Democrats and globalist elites). From his standpoint as the center of the universe, he would naturally feel aggrieved at having been robbed of a reelection all-but-guaranteed for him by the most awesome economic boom in the history of the world. And he would need the vindication of proving once again that he can bring back American greatness through the stable genius of his unique leadership. How long would he wait to launch another presidential campaign? Probably not much more than a week.
Yes, in July of 2024 Trump would turn 78, but that’s how old Bernie Sanders is right now. Particularly if Biden runs for a second term at 81, Trump’s age would not be a bar, though he might have to lay off the junk food for a while. Would Republicans reject him for a younger, fresher, undefeated candidate? I don’t know, but the odds against a third Trump GOP nomination would probably be lower than the odds he beat in 2016.
It’s possible Trump could be trounced so decisively in November that the evil glamour of his persona would fade from sight once and for all. More likely, his base will stay with him no matter what, and won’t quickly move on to another hero.
As for those of us who have been praying that we won’t have to deal with this nightmare of a presidency beyond January 2021, the possibility that he won’t be permanently ejected from the White House until 2029 is enough to inspire a pandemic of panic.