April 25, 2024

Trump’s lack of an agenda means that whatever he achieves will, as in Scenario One, mostly reflect Republican orthodoxy or Washington consensus. Knowing this, the Heritage Foundation has furnished a long list of policy proposals that political reporters describe as Trump’s agenda merely because there isn’t any competing set of proposals. There are some conservatives—Dougherty appears to be one—whose only real ambition for a second Trump term is an even more reactionary Supreme Court. In a second term, Dougherty writes, Trump would “almost surely” end up naming successors to Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, and possibly also to John Roberts and Democrat Sonia Sotomayor (who, Dougherty notes hopefully, “has health challenges,” a reference to her Type 1 Diabetes). Naming four additional justices to the Supreme Court would allow Trump to impose an “historic stamp” on the high court, Dougherty writes, “comparable only to FDR’s.

It’s the third and fourth scenarios that give Dougherty the willies. Scenario Three (“A Four-Year Siege”) refers not to newly-pardoned January 6 insurrectionists laying waste to democratic institutions, but rather to “a ‘Resistance’ whose legal, moral, and political brinksmanship presents as many threats to American institutions as, or even more than, Trump himself.” Huh? Dougherty doesn’t try very hard to support this outrageous statement beyond hinting at unhappy memories of Black Lives Matter protests. For the record, it’s well documented—going back decades—that political violence has always been much more prevalent on the right.

What, specifically, does Dougherty fear? That “a Democratic House will find every chance to investigate Trump.” True, but that’s mostly because Trump (unlike Joe Biden) furnishes Democrats so many reasons to investigate him. Or the Democratic House might “refuse to invite Trump to deliver a State of the Union address.” That’s unlikely, but so what if they did? It’s not something to lie awake nights about. One impressively rococo anxiety Dougherty harbors is that the left will “take as a given that Trump authentically represents America, and that the entire American tradition is a tree that produces bad fruit.” Well, yes, I suppose some might go there. But if Dougherty truly fears that, then why—instead of rationalizing a second term for this bad apple—doesn’t he dedicate every waking moment to re-electing Joe Biden, who’s far less likely to inspire such nihilism?