By Gallagher & Schleicher
It was a fitting end to 2019, a year stained and strained by a stream of righteous indignation and feigned outrage from the White House.
Just before Christmas it emerged that the Canadian Broadcasting Company deleted a scene from “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” featuring a brief cameo with Donald Trump, who in 1992 when the film debuted was merely a failing real estate developer. That editing decision, which CBC said was merely to accommodate television advertising breaks, prompted a furious response from the president’s son, Don Jr., who called it “absolutely pathetic.” Then POTUS himself, still salty from the global snubbery he endured last month at the NATO summit, lashed out against Canadian premier Justin Trudeau.
The fact the scene was cut way back in 2014, when the president was merely a leading propagator of the birther smear against then-President Barack Obama, failed to mollify his staunchest supporters. Like Don Jr., they saw it as just another act of (time-warped) censorship by the liberal (Canadian) media.
By the time the shouting died down on Kevingate, the presidential Twitter feed had moved on to a frenzy of freshly crazy, mostly retweeted posts from fans and many from more questionable accounts. Among which was one “naming” (with no substantiation) the identity of the intelligence community whistleblower behind the not-so-perfect shakedown call between Trump and Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky. The outing, accurate or not, was inappropriate at best, possibly illegal and potentially a new chapter in the looming impeachment saga.
All of which is to say, as loathe as we are to make predictions, 2020 is warming up to some familiar tunes and dance moves we endured in 2019. So what can we expect?
Indignation-on-demand will certainly feature large and loud in all public debate. Call it crimson and snarl: Our screens will be replete with the same outraged faces and voices who were indignant that a Supreme Court nominee could be held to account for credible sexual-assault charges, incensed that firing an FBI chief to prevent an investigation into election-tampering could be construed as a crime or furious that blackmailing an ally for a personal favor might be seen as an impeachable abuse of power.
We’ll also see scandal after scandal — some real, others manufactured — pop up like a coked-up game of whack-a-mole, impossible to grasp or even remember as each one is overtaken by the next till we’re simply too fatigued by it all. Which is the point, of course.
And then there will be the tweeting — the relentless, increasingly fevered posts and retweets from a commander-in-chief showing, all too plainly, the stress and toll of a job he was ill-equipped to handle from the beginning. On this we may find common ground with his supporters, many of whom would agree that his choice of words, topics and now sources are sub-optimal, even though this would deny a more fundamental worry: It’s the mind behind the tweets that concerns the rational world.
His thoughts, whether verbalized on social media or mumbled onstage at his rallies, are likely to be the source of even more acute discomfort for his allies in the coming year. These pronouncements and ponderings are disconnected, drawn from dubious sources and make for tragi-comic memes and GIFs; the man who invented the tactics of brutal social-media warfare may well find the tables turned against him in 2020.
Just as hate crimes rose in 2019, count on another spike in 2020. It’s not fair to blame Trump, many will say, but the tone he sets in tweets gives new meaning to the term “bully pulpit.” Labeling any dissent as coming from enemies and a threat to national security. Elevating fear to be the primary domestic agenda and treating allies like ex-wives. All of that cannot help but trickle down into the twisted psyche of those with a head start on paranoia.
Expect violence more often and with increasing casualty counts against immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ citizens, churches and — notwithstanding the occasional tweet to the contrary — Jewish communities. Like the devil, once raw nationalism is welcomed into your home, it’s impossible to declare this room or another off-limits.
And then there’s the matter of presidential health. He is about as honest here as he is with this tax records, so we’re all in the dark on what we’re facing, but it’s not a stretch to see this emerge as a key question in the election. Physical health? Mental health? Likely both.
Upon winning a failure to convict in the Senate (and possibly upon re-election by the Electoral College), we expect Donald will take the path well-worn by autocratic friends like Turkey’s Erdogan: revenge. As far as the eye can see, as swift as the polls will allow and as threatening to liberty as an attorney general who thinks Donald is his only client and a favorably packed Supreme Court will allow.
More specific predictions are unwise. Will a war with Iran push impeachment off the agenda? Can a blue Texas negate an Electoral College advantage? Who will the Democrats run against him? Will a primary challenge turn out to be a real threat to his re-nomination?
While 2020 we fear will look all too much like 2019, there’s plenty of drama yet to emerge, but one lesson is clear: Kevin beat the bad guys and was reunited with his family in “Home Alone 2,” and Donald Trump had absolutely nothing to do with either.
David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London and tweeting at @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher is an attorney splitting his time between Waco and D.C. and blogging at ContranymTimes.com. This piece originally appeared in the Sunday, January 5, 2020 Waco Tribune-Herald, where the Davids are on the Board of Contributors.