By the time President Trump raised his right hand and swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, the Constitution itself had been enlisted. In what Trump supporters called the “Christmas Coup” and what everyone else called a historic act of national preservation, President Obama signed into law a bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (with the exception of a few House Republicans and Ted Cruz, who abstained) which reasserted congressional primacy over the republic and stripped away the presidential prerogatives that had accrued over the previous century. In a talk at the Heritage Foundation, Chief Justice John Roberts, speaking only hypothetically of course, suggested such a law would survive judicial review. The liberals on the high court offered similar hints. The only source of debate was which parts of the law ought to be permanent and which should sunset after four years. You can imagine how that went.
Anyway, there’s no need to belabor the details of how the next four years unfolded: the budget crisis, President Trump’s impeachment, Vice President Cruz’s inauguration, the second budget crisis. It’s all pretty straightforward. It was a painful and frightening time, to be sure. And while it didn’t bring about the collapse of society, it did hurt us. Our economy suffered, as did our standing in the world. (Relations with Mexico remain tense.) One bright spot: We elected a man who loves to name things after himself, but all we named after him is the “Trump Recession.” He’ll be remembered for that forever. The irony was almost worth the price.
And maybe it was a price the American people had to pay. Maybe Trump was a mirror, and we hated him because we hated what we saw in our reflection. We were coasting and knew it. A generation of elites prized shamelessness and ambition over virtue. Our newness and pride as a nation didn’t protect us from decadence, but it did allow us to ignore it, glued to our grievances and our phones as our culture and politics grew ever more brittle and shallow and crass.
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