MEMBERS ONLY: Predicting Trump’s Political Future

This will be my final MEMBERS ONLY piece for 2018, so in the spirit of looking ahead to the New Year, I thought I’d take some time to consider Donald Trump’s Christmas Future. Specifically, what are the chances Trump will remain the president or disappear in a puff of orange smock?

This will be my final MEMBERS ONLY piece for 2018, so in the spirit of looking ahead to the New Year, I thought I’d take some time to consider Donald Trump’s Christmas Future. Specifically, what are the chances Trump will remain the president or disappear in a puff of orange smock?

Impeachment
Estimated Possibility: 90 percent

A few months ago, especially prior to the midterms, I would’ve ranked impeachment somewhere in the range of “never gonna happen.” Not any more. And it wasn’t just the midterms that significantly altered the outlook on this possibility, it was the bombshell Michael Cohen sentencing memo courtesy of prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that catapulted impeachment to a very real possibility, given the appearance of hard evidence that Trump conspired with Michael Cohen and David Pecker to violate campaign finance laws while committing fraud against American voters.

Bear in mind this doesn’t suggest Trump will be convicted in the Senate. But impeachment is merely the process of initiating a trial in the Senate by a majority vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. From there, the chances of a conviction aren’t as dismal as you might think, knowing there’s a Republican majority in the upper chamber. I believe there’s perhaps a 40 percent chance that once the charges and the evidence from Mueller’s ongoing investigation are revealed in a trial, the probability of a conviction will significantly increase.

Resignation
Estimated Possibility: 55 percent

On the surface, it seems inconceivable that Trump would resign the presidency given his pathological drive to win, win, win, even if it means constantly inventing things that he allegedly won — such as his claim that we defeated ISIS despite the Pentagon and most of the generals saying we haven’t. So, the question here is whether he even has the capacity to quit.

I believe he does, and here’s how it could happen. Every day brings new legal jeopardy for Trump and his family, so much so that the only free-and-clear way out is by either seizing executive powers beyond the strictures of the Constitution — the nightmare scenario — or, quite literally, resigning and then being pardoned by a newly sworn-in Mike Pence, repeating what happened in September, 1974, just a month after Nixon resigned.

Don’t forget, when the going gets tough, Trump has a tendency to run away. When he faces tough questions, he wanders off. Hell, when he faces tough weather, he retreats to shelter to protect his swirly hair helmet. If he faces an indictment or perhaps even a sealed indictment to be unsealed upon leaving office, an incoming Democratic president surely won’t help him escape. The only one who can do it is Pence, and Pence needs to be president first. If he can cut a deal with Pence, and if the legal jeopardy is scary enough, he will absolutely bail out, claiming he accomplished everything he could with what he’ll surely call the most successful presidency in history.

Election Loss in 2020
Estimated Possibility: 50 percent

Frankly, I’m not yet comfortable predicting a big Trump re-election loss in the 2020 general. I remember believing there was no way George W. Bush could win in 2004, and we were crushed when he somehow pulled it off despite presiding over the most catastrophic terrorist attack in history followed by a misguided war in Iraq. Given that Brad Parscale is running “Trump Victory,” the actual name of Trump’s re-election effort, and given how Parscale was the digital director responsible for the social media and internet presence of the 2016 campaign, it’s possible that Russia is lurking, waiting to pounce again.

Neither am I confident that the stupids won’t convince more Americans to join them in their stupidity. Call me a cynical Gen-Xer, but there are millions of stupids out there and they vote. Consider how many millions of Americans were duped by Fox News propaganda and Russia’s psyop. All of that said, it’s difficult to see a president with a 39 percent approval (and falling) actually win. Likewise, the Democrats could put up a hell of a scrap on the heels of a successful midterm. Remember that the big Dem takeover in 2006 bled directly into Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 — a victory that included more gains in Congress.

Primary Loss in 2020
Estimated Possibility: 65 percent

It’s entirely likely Trump won’t even make it to the general election. It could be that a number of Republicans will line up against him in advance of the primaries. Some names being floated include John Kasich, Nikki Haley, Bob Corker, and Jeff Flake. Trump has stupidly declared that he welcomes the challenge, clearly because Trump doesn’t know anything. Facing an equally treacherous series of primary challengers in 1968, Lyndon Johnson famously chose to not run again in the face of potentially being embarrassed by a catastrophic and rare re-nomination loss. And LBJ was a political wizard — even he didn’t think he could survive a multi-candidate primary challenge.

Here’s the only thing preventing this from happening. The Republican National Committee just closed a deal to unite itself with the Trump re-election campaign, going so far as to share an office. Furthermore, the South Carolina Republican Party is contemplating the elimination of the 2020 Republican primary there. Why? Well, it could be because Nikki Haley is from there and she’d have a relatively strong chance of defeating Trump in that state’s primary, embarrassing the president and launching Haley as a serious contender.

Conclusion

Trump’s presidency could easily crash and burn at any moment. Whether it’s any of the above scenarios remains to be seen, but it’s almost impossible to see Trump enduring beyond the No Man’s Land he faces, even in the coming weeks, say nothing of the next six months. As always, don’t get happy except for one thing: a Happy New Year. As The Money Man, that’s right Eddie Money, says: have a safe and wonderful New Year.

Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh