When a president is running for a second term, elections tend to look like a contest between change (a new candidate) and more of the same (the incumbent).
But 2020 doesn’t fit the mold. As aberrant as Donald Trump’s first term in office has been, a second term might be a more radical departure from the past four years than even a comparative return to normalcy under Joe Biden would be. In other words, this is a change election either way—the question is what kind of change.
Some Trump supporters have dismissed the concerns of his critics as so much Chicken Little-ing: The sky hasn’t fallen yet, has it? This is a foolish response, not only because so much of the sky has fallen, but also because there are indications of how fast the rest will fall if Trump is reelected. The president, freed from ever having to face voters again, would feel no need to moderate any of his many unpopular stances and impulses.
The easiest place to imagine this is at the level of staffing. The president gave two big hints yesterday about who might be in a new administration. Most prominently, he all but promised to fire Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, if he wins. During a rally in Florida, Trump complained about coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, even as COVID-19 case counts reach their highest point in the U.S. and continue to rise. The crowd began chanting, “Fire Fauci!” Trump paused to allow the cries to grow, then replied: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait ’til a little bit after the election.”