Updated on November 12 at 1:12 p.m.
It’s November 4, 2020. Across the United States—and across the globe—liberals and Donald Trump–opposing conservatives alike drag themselves from fitful sleep, red-eyed and exhausted, filled with dread, incomprehension, and déjà vu. How did he do it again?
The night before, Trump had won reelection as president—despite a chaotic and frustrating first term, multiple investigations, and a historically low approval rating. Of course, Trump had won in 2016 despite many of the same weaknesses, but that win was thought to be a fluke, a product of a weak Democratic candidate, Russian interference, and Trump’s novelty. His critics never imagined lightning could strike a second time.
With a second term, Trump now has the potential to be among the most influential presidents in American history. The reelection gives him a mandate to continue his goal of dismantling historic U.S. alliances and trade deals. It means Congress could finally acquiesce to building the border wall that the president continues to demand. By the end of his first term, Trump had already started roundups of thousands of undocumented immigrants and cut the number of refugees the nation accepts to barely anything, and he’s now expected to forge ahead with plans to curtail legal immigration as well. Having appointed three justices to the Supreme Court in his first four years, Trump will likely notch at least another one or two in his second term, solidifying the first truly conservative Court in almost a century for decades to come. The federal government will be radically reoriented around his form of laissez-faire conservatism. Stung by Robert Mueller’s investigation and an impeachment attempt in his first term, Trump is also poised to purge the Justice Department and give himself broad protection from scrutiny and investigation.