Eight years of Trump sucks, right? It’s terrible, isn’t it? I mean, it can’t get worse, right?
Oh, you cockeyed optimists.
As in all things Trump, it can get much, much worse. If he wins in 2020, we’re never getting rid of these dolts. Even if shit goes really, really off the rails, Immortan Don and the rest of his Mad Max crew will still be racing around the desert far into the future.
A second term guarantees the rise of the Imperial Trumps, a family cult built on the remains of the moldering corpse of the GOP, featuring all the warmth of North Korea’s Kim dynasty and a kind of Hapsburg-jawed je ne sais dumbfuck rien.
The fantasy self-image of Donald Trump has always been that of royalty, and as I wrote in Everything Trump Touches Dies, it’s just that pesky Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution that forbids titles of nobility. Since he’s not, you know, famously dedicated to the Constitution in most areas, why this one?
Get ready for Donald Trump Jr., a man who speaks the fluent asshole dialogue of the own-the-libs Trump Party, to rise to the top of the 2024 GOP primary ranks. The dynastic talk that was once treated as a joke (even by me) is already growing around both Don Jr. and Ivanka. Poor Eric is left out, but then again, he always has been.
The Trump family—including the creepy automaton Jared Kushner—will continue to view the American government not as a sacred trust but as an ATM for their crapulous enterprises and nation-state-level grifting. While Kushner’s ambitions don’t appear to be especially political, his exploitation of his high office as Grand Vizier to Emir Donald has been spectacularly profitable for his companies. As for Trump personally, his hotels, golf courses, and clubs were miraculously both popular and profitable for unknown reasons. (Pardon me while I recover from that epic eye-roll.)
By the fall of 2019, it was clear that Trump had even managed to suborn the military into spending money that benefited his resorts and golf clubs when stories broke of Air Force cargo flights to the Middle East making unusual stops at his golf resort in Scotland for hotel accommodations and fuel.
The ambition that drives the Trump spawn these days is powerful, and the corruption and collapse of the GOP as a party will enable their dynastic fantasies to play out with real consequences for the country. The Orange Kardashians will have the brand power of Trump, as well as the shameless hucksterism of Fox and the degraded conservative media, behind them. Mark my words, even the “respectable” elements of the conservative media will soon be producing think pieces on why Don Jr. is the bridge from raw Trumpism to a smoother, smarter populist nationalism.
As for Mike Pence, who briefly held out a secret hope that he would be the heir to the Trump movement by combining his adoring gaze, talent for bootlicking, and slavish Donald über Alles suck-uppery, well, Trump treated Pence like any other wife or business partner and has already signaled he’s going to fuck him, and not in his usual two-pump-chump way. When asked if Pence would follow him as president, it would have cost Trump nothing politically to shout out his VP, but he punted. Loyalty is an alien concept to Trump, except to his own progeny.
Ivanka, though never accepted in Washington, still hopes to shape an image of the smart, Aspen- and TED-Talk-friendly modern technocrat who just happens to be the daughter of the warlord. I once had a “serious journalist” with robust access to the Trumps tell me, “She stops so many bad things. She’s a net positive.” Bro. Just because Ivanka calls you and says, “I’m stopping bad things” doesn’t make it so, but like her father, she knows how easily duped the media can be.
Installing Ivanka and her android husband, Jared, in the White House was already the greatest display of nepotism in presidential history, but by the summer of 2019, Jared and Ivanka had become the awkward party guests at events like the Tokyo G20 meeting. Trump’s work to frame Ivanka as the First Princess led him to include her in event after event with world leaders, to incredibly awkward effect. It wasn’t the first time he’d thrust his groomed but talentless daughter into the spotlight, but it was one of the most embarrassing.
Her presence was deeply unwelcome at a number of events where she tried to run with the big dogs of world affairs, sparking an #UnwantedIvanka hashtag that ran wild on social media. She drew grumbles and cold shoulders from other world leaders offended that the adult child of a reality-star president was treating them as props in the drama of her personal ambitions.
Trump made sure that his then national security advisor, John Bolton, was exiled to Mongolia during Kim Jong Don’s surprise visit to see his bestie Kim Jong-un. Apparently, though, it was Take Your Daughter to See a Nuke-Curious Genocidal Madman Who Starves His People and Tricks the President of the United States Over and Over Again Day. Trump brought Ivanka to Korea with him because of course he did.
Don Jr. might as well have a Pepe back tattoo, given how beloved he is by the alt-right and how frequently he boosts the social-media posts of the assorted race-war flotsam that follows his father. He’s already teased about running for governor of New York or mayor of New York City, but a better bet will be a quickie relocation to Montana or some other state, at least nominally, before he launches his political career. Junior has spent a lot of time on the campaign trail and has learned the ropes. Expect to see him at the center of the Trump efforts in 2020 and as a constant presence on social media.
Even Eric the Wide-Gummed and Tiffany have been dragged along for some of the high-profile state visits and glam events. Trump wants to maximize the reach of the brand, even for the children he loves the least. This is how real dynastic politics come to America, not with a bang but a reality show. For the Trumps, it’ll be easy—with the rigid control of the GOP this president exercises, there will be none of those pesky primary elections the Bushes and even the Kennedys had to endure.
Yes, the Imperial Trumps are here to stay. Get ready for four years of the right-wing press writing strained profiles of the Strange New Respect that Ivanka is generating among conservatives, and how the first woman Republican president might not be Nikki Haley but rather the deceptively smart and successful fashion icon supermom Ivanka Trump, who is surprisingly down-to-earth. They’ll “discover” she has an easy, self-deprecating sense of humor.
She’ll even appear on Colbert or (again) SNL, poking fun at her image, and even—just a bit—at her famous father. Even skeptical conservative media will find themselves drawn to how the Princess Royal now represents the Trump nationalism without the rough edges and ugly tweets.
One other factor about the soon-to-be endless presence of Trumps in our lives: They’re breeding like rabbits, so if we don’t play our cards right now, they’ll have enough offspring to get a majority in the U.S. Senate before long.
Excerpted from RUNNING AGAINST THE DEVIL by Rick Wilson. Copyright © 2020 by Rick Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Crown Forum, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.