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Trump, Bush, and the Curse of Memory

The worst thing about Donald Trump is that he’ll get to come back.

There are many terrible things about Donald Trump The Presidential Candidate, to be sure, more than I care enumerate in this space. But the worst thing of all about him is that he won’t have to pay for any of these sins. He won’t be punished for empowering an army of nazis (online and off), or stoking revenge fantasies among a sizable portion of the electorate that will be impossible for the next president to douse, or even for being a goddamn creep of the highest order. This is all next-level awful, and bodes ill for the presidential elections of 2020 and beyond, when another fascist with sharper political skills and a modicum of impulse control could play the Nixon to Trump’s George Wallace.

But even if we wind up with an actual race-baiting Putin-worshiping monster in the White House 4 or 8 or 12 years from now—someone who will have marched there on a road Trump paved—Trump himself will not receive the slightest blame for it, and he will not only be unrepentant, but will not be forced to answer any hard questions about the horror he has unleashed.

This won’t happen because Trump is a psychopath who can compartmentalize the segments of his consciousness like a serial killer, or because he’s a self-proclaimed multibillionaire who can spend his way out of trouble, although these factors certainly help. This will happen because no one will call him to account. On the face of it, this seems impossible; surely Trump will have to answer for something he’s done during this election. But American political history—particularly that of the last 20 years or so—provides ample evidence to prove this, and the hyper-accelerated pace of media and life in general guarantees it.

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