Hi, Grandpa. It’s 2048, and my American history class is studying what happened during the era of Donald Trump. I’m using artificial intelligence technology the government found at an alien crash site to send you an email from the future.
My research project is due tomorrow. Gramps, tell me what did you do in the Trump wars?
So many questions, future grandchild. Do the Orioles win the 2023 World Series? Does Wes Moore run for president in 2028?
You email me and then get to read my response in the archives of your day. Let’s not get lost in the details of how you did this, or whether it’s just a columnist’s flourish. Twenty-five years is a good distance for some perspective on events that seem hard to understand while living through them. I hope I can help you form an opinion.
Is it a war?
Well, casualties so far have included the truth, but also some lives. Almost of those who died were connected to a Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Donald Trump uses a lot of violent language, like “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU” on his Truth Social platform. His supporters outdo him by shedding any remaining fig leaves of civility, calling former Vice President Mike Pence a traitor for accusing his old boss of trying to overthrow the Constitution or, according to news reports, by saying they want to “watch his toes dangle.”
The truth is that it feels as if we’ve all been living in Donald Trump’s head since the day he came down that golden escalator at Trump Tower to announce a run for the White House in June 2015. If he sees it as a war, maybe it is one.
What is certain to me is that the former president is a serially bankrupt huckster who sold millions of voters on the idea that a New York City elitist could be a champion for those who feel betrayed by a changing America. In exchange, he offers an unending stream of grievance-stoking, anger fuel to burn all who disagree.
As the Republican candidate for president, he narrowly beat a weak Democrat in 2016, lost to a different weak Democrat four years later and is poised to face that same Democrat in 2024, the unpopular incumbent President Joe Biden. Trump lost the popular vote in both elections.
Impeached twice but not convicted, Trump egged on the Jan. 6 mob as his defeat was being certified. Pence, once part of a coterie of sycophants surrounding Trump, surprised everyone that day by demonstrating a greater allegiance to the Constitution than to his boss. He refused to back a cockamamie scheme to reject votes for Biden by replacing them with a slate of “false electors.”
I wonder if the Electoral College is still a thing in your day, grandchild.
Trump left Washington in a huff, becoming the first American president to break with the tradition of peaceful power transfer after an election. He’s been sued and indicted multiple times, most recently related to the false electors scam. He’s almost certain to hear from another grand jury, this one investigating a related alleged plot to falsify the 2020 election results by faking results in Georgia.
If this seems nuts, his supporters have a dismissive name for the feeling: “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
Annapolis is a solidly anti-Trump town. The Republican Party is so marginalized that its last candidate for mayor announced an uphill campaign by saying somebody had to do it.
It’s not much better statewide, where a Trump-endorsed candidate for governor last year lived up to predictions of a defeat so resounding that the only surprise was his subsequent failure to move to West Virginia. Maryland’s Republican Party was never dominant, but it was credible and often likable until it signed up for the Trump wars.
This might sound like a good thing. We don’t have a governor or state legislature trying to outdo the former president, and have only one congressman who enables him with his support. The danger comes in being smug about it.
We think we’re insulated from the craziness in Maryland. People are shutting out the news because Trump — combined with climate change, the Russian war in Ukraine, the rollback of abortion rights and a half-dozen other distressing events — makes staying informed feel like a bad case of the spins.
Instead of guns, the weapons in this war are the state and federal courts where prosecutors are going after Trump. He’s been charged with falsifying business records in New York as part of an alleged scheme to pay hush money to a porn star, violating federal laws regarding secret documents and orchestrating a conspiracy to defraud voters during his effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. If that Georgia grand jury has any sense, he’ll face charges that he used political threats in a failed attempt to persuade state officials to fake the 2020 results from that battleground state that Biden won.
In response, Trump uses a playground insult: “I am rubber and you are glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you.”
He and his allies rely on magical thinking and name-calling. It’s not fraud, it’s freedom of speech. Trump can declassify documents with his mind. What about Hunter Biden’s laptop? The prosecutor is sick and the judge is biased. It was aspirational.
He feeds supporters still more anger. He’ll go after his enemies if elected. He’ll settle scores. If they win, you’re next.
“I am your warrior,” Trump told supporters in March. “I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”
The Trump wars aren’t a conflict of arms, but a conflict between dueling realities.
On one side is a world of Trump’s imagining, where he is a savior bedeviled by troublesome foes. It rubs against a reality where laws govern conduct, however imperfectly, even for the rich and powerful.
I fear that if he is convicted, his supporters will again resort to violence. Whether he is convicted or not, if he recaptures the presidency and launches a campaign of revenge, I fear riots breaking out in protest. As president, Trump already urged police to “crack their skulls” during protests in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, over police violence.
What did I do in all this? Already, I try to avoid talking politics with some members of my family — or avoid them altogether — because they regurgitate Trump’s crazed language.
And because I write about the world from the perspective of my small corner of it, I don’t often delve into the conflict. But what is happening is so consequential that not covering it seems like a failure of journalism.
There is no going back. Grandchild, the world you inhabit 25 years from now is one in which the consequences of the Trump wars are fact and not speculation.
I hope we, as a country, make the right decisions and survive what is ahead. I hope we can agree to live together with the outcome of the Trump wars and deliver you a reality in 2048 that resembles the good parts of mine.
I hope that I’m wrong and the Trump wars will end without more violence.