After Trump loses

It will all seem like a bad dream. He will leave no lasting imprint on the GOP or the country.

The nation will forget about Donald Trump rather quickly.
(Image credit: LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

When George W. Bush was reelected in 2004 and Republicans increased their majorities in the House and Senate, The Week's cover illustration depicted a forlorn Democratic donkey on an all-red map of the nation's heartland under the headline "Lost in America." Our stories described blue-state Democrats suffering from "post-traumatic stress," asking their shrinks for Prozac, and consulting real estate ads in Canada. Four years later, Barack Obama swept into the White House on a wave that gave him a Democratic Senate and House, and it was Republicans who were sure the sky was falling. It is useful to remember these swings of the pendulum when political columnists wonder, "Will Trumpism permanently alter the course of American politics?" If I had to take a wild guess, it would be: "Hell, no."

Human beings are prone to fallacies. One of the more common ones is the assumption that what is happening today is of lasting significance — that a present trend can be plotted along a straight line to predict the future. It's this notion that leads to proclamations that the winner of every election has forged a new, "durable majority." The American political dynamic does change and evolve, but like all evolution, the process occurs gradually, in fits and starts. Over the past 60 years, power has swung back and forth between the parties, as the party in power inevitably overreaches, and the losing party learns from defeat and adapts. Donald Trump has tapped into some deep resentment, but his candidacy is a cult of personality to which 60 percent of Republicans and nearly 100 percent of everyone else is immune. When Trump is finally dispatched back to reality TV, he will be remembered with chagrined wonderment, the way any of us looks back on our most reckless love affair or a drinking binge that ended in a daylong hangover. This, too, shall pass.

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