That’s especially true if Elizabeth Warren is the Democratic nominee — and Michael Bloomberg makes that more likely if he splits the moderate vote. A recent New York Times-Siena College poll shows Warren trailing Trump among likely voters in five of six swing states. As Republican consultant Steve Schmidt says, “In America a sociopath will beat a socialist seven days a week and twice on Sunday.”
What truly terrifies me is what Trump might do with another term. The longer he is in office, the more willful he becomes and the fewer adults are left to restrain him. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III nailed him on multiple counts of obstruction of justice but failed to convince the public that it was worth impeaching. The day after Mueller’s congressional testimony fizzled, Trump was on the phone demanding that the president of Ukraine investigate one of his political rivals. If he survives this flagrant criminality, imagine what he will be emboldened to do next. It is, of course, impossible to predict the actions of a president who tries to buy Greenland, falsifies a weather map, and expresses interest in nuking hurricanes — and all that occurred just this past summer — but here are some worst-case scenarios.
Second-Term Trump could deport hundreds of thousands, even millions, of “dreamers” and other undocumented immigrants, causing untold human suffering. He could finally prosecute critics such as Hillary Clinton and Comey, purge all of the federal investigators who dared to investigate him, pardon all of his aides who have been convicted of crimes, deploy the FBI to gather dirt on his critics, and retaliate against the media organizations he loathes. The Justice Department’s independence, already fraying, might become lost altogether, removing a major obstacle to American authoritarianism.
With only four years left to cash in on the presidency, Second-Term Trump could give free rein to epic, Russian-style corruption. He could hold Cabinet meetings at the Trump International Hotel, mandate that federal employees stay at his properties while traveling and sell federal land at rock-bottom rates for Trump projects. He could finally realize his dream of building a Trump Tower in Moscow — and in the capital of any other country that wants anything from the United States.
If a judge orders Second-Term Trump to turn over financial documents or to stop turning away refugees, he could refuse to comply with a court order — something he has yet to do. Of course, the odds of the courts blocking him will decrease because the longer he stays in power, the more judges he appoints. Already one-fourth of all federal appeals judges have been chosen by Trump. Those judges are likely to be more deferential to his power grabs. They are also likely to reduce abortion rights to next to nothing.
In his first term, Trump began an assault on international institutions by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iran nuclear accord. Second-Term Trump could finish the job by withdrawing from the World Trade Organization and NATO. Even if Congress wouldn’t go along, he could effectively render NATO meaningless by simply saying he won’t go to war for our deadbeat allies, thereby reversing his begrudging endorsement of the Article V collective-defense provision. He could also impose heavy tariffs on European imports and withdraw U.S. troops from Europe, thereby doing further damage to an already faltering Atlantic alliance.
He could strike a terrible deal with North Korea to lift sanctions and withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea in return for cosmetic concessions, ending an alliance that has lasted more than 70 years. He could pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan even without a peace deal, turning that country over to the Taliban. He could cut off aid to Ukraine (a country that he detests), recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea and lift sanctions on Russia.
This is necessarily speculative — a worst case scenario that I hope never comes to pass — but Trump’s refusal to recognize climate change is amply documented. Second-Term Trump will continue to eviscerate emissions regulations and ignore a climate calamity that is already upon us.
We can readily survive a one-term Trump presidency. Second-Term Trump is more likely to inflict damage — to our democracy, our environment, our world order — that is incalculable and unfixable. That this is a very real possibility causes me to fear for our country more than at any point in my lifetime.