The January/February issue of The Atlantic includes a forum titled “If Trump Wins.” It includes pieces by David Frum, Anne Applebaum, McKay Coppins, Caitlin Dickerson, Barton Gellman, Sophie Gilbert, Zoe Schlanger, and George Packer.
Here is a taste of editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s introduction to the issue:
Like many reporters, I’ve been operating in Casaubon mode for much of the past eight years, searching for the key to Donald Trump’s mythologies. No single explanation of Trump is fully satisfactory, although Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer came closest when he observed that the cruelty is the point. Another person who helped me unscramble the mystery of Trump was his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Early in the Trump presidency, I had lunch with Kushner in his White House office. We were meant to be discussing Middle East peace (more on that another time), but I was particularly curious to hear Kushner talk about his father-in-law’s behavior. I was not inured then—and am not inured even now—to the many rococo manifestations of Trump’s defective character. One of the first moments of real shock for me came in the summer of 2015, when Trump, then an implausible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, said of Senator John McCain, “He’s not a war hero … I like people who weren’t captured, okay?”
I did not understand how so many ostensibly patriotic voters could subsequently embrace Trump, but mainly I couldn’t understand his soul sickness: How does a person come to such a rotten, depraved thought?
That day in the White House, I mentioned to Kushner one of Trump’s more recent calumnies and told him that, in my view, his father-in-law’s incivility was damaging the country. Strangely, Kushner seemed to agree with me: “No one can go as low as the president,” he said. “You shouldn’t even try.”
I was confused at first. But then I understood: Kushner wasn’t insulting his father-in-law. He was paying him a compliment.
Perverse, of course. But revelatory as well, and more than a little prophetic. Because Trump, in the intervening years, has gone lower, and lower, and lower. If there is a bottom—no sure thing—he’s getting closer. Tom Nichols, who writes The Atlantic’s daily newsletter and is one of our in-house experts on authoritarianism, argued in mid-November that Trump has finally earned the epithet “fascist.”
“For weeks, Trump has been ramping up his rhetoric,” Nichols wrote. “Early last month, he echoed the vile and obsessively germophobic language of Adolf Hitler by describing immigrants as disease-ridden terrorists and psychiatric patients who are ‘poisoning the blood of our country.’ ” In a separate speech, Trump, Nichols wrote, “melded religious and political rhetoric to aim not at foreign nations or immigrants, but at his fellow citizens. This is when he crossed one of the last remaining lines that separated his usual authoritarian bluster from recognizable fascism.”
Trump’s rhetoric has numbed us in its hyperbole and frequency. As David A. Graham, one of our magazine’s chroniclers of the Trump era, wrote recently, “The former president continues to produce substantive ideas—which is not to say they are wise or prudent, but they are certainly more than gibberish. In fact, much of what Trump is discussing is un-American, not merely in the sense of being antithetical to some imagined national set of mores, but in that his ideas contravene basic principles of the Constitution or other bedrock bases of American government.”
There was a time when it seemed impossible to imagine that Trump would once again be a candidate for president. That moment lasted from the night of January 6, 2021, until the afternoon of January 28, 2021, when the then-leader of the House Republican caucus, Kevin McCarthy, visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago and welcomed him back into the fold.
Read the rest here.