• If Donald Trump returns to the White House, he’d bring a better understanding of the system’s vulnerabilities, more willing enablers, and a more focused agenda of retaliation against his adversaries.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of “If Trump Wins,” a project considering what Donald Trump might do if reelected in 2024.

For all its marvelous creativity, the human imagination often fails when turned to the future. It is blunted, perhaps, by a craving for the familiar. We all appreciate that the past includes many moments of severe instability, crisis, even radical revolutionary upheaval. We know that such things happened years or decades or centuries ago. We cannot believe they might happen tomorrow.

When Donald Trump is the subject, imagination falters further. Trump operates so far outside the normal bounds of human behavior — never mind normal political behavior — that it is difficult to accept what he may actually do, even when he declares his intentions openly. What’s more, we have experienced one Trump presidency already. We can take false comfort from that previous experience: We’ve lived through it once. American democracy survived. Maybe the danger is less than feared?

In his first term, Trump’s corruption and brutality were mitigated by his ignorance and laziness. In a second, Trump would arrive with a much better understanding of the system’s vulnerabilities, more willing enablers in tow, and a much more focused agenda of retaliation against his adversaries and impunity for himself. When people wonder what another Trump term might hold, their minds underestimate the chaos that would lie ahead.

By Election Day 2024, Donald Trump will be in the thick of multiple criminal trials. It’s not impossible that he may already have been convicted in at least one of them. If he wins the election, Trump will commit the first crime of his second term at noon on Inauguration Day: His oath to defend the Constitution of the United States will be a perjury.

A second Trump term would instantly plunge the country into a constitutional crisis more terrible than anything seen since the Civil War. Even in the turmoil of the 1960s, even during the Great Depression, the country had a functional government with the president as its head. But the government cannot function with an indicted or convicted criminal as its head. The president would be an outlaw, or on his way to becoming an outlaw. For his own survival, he would have to destroy the rule of law.

Source: David Frum, theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2024/01/donald-trump-reelection-second-term-agenda/676119/