If you want to understand how Donald Trump sees himself and his place in the world, he’s quite willing to tell you. It’s one of the few topics on which his word can be trusted.
For example, when news broke this week that 81-year-old Anthony Kennedy had finally decided to retire after 30 years of service on the U.S. Supreme Court, potentially altering the court for a generation, here’s how Trump responded:
“I’m very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy,” our president said, displaying every bit of the humility and respect for others that has made him so admired.
Because it is all, every little bit of it, about him. It’s as if, in Trump’s mind, the entire majestic arc of American history — none of which he knows, by the way — has been the mere playing out of his own grand destiny, bringing the world to his feet. In this case, even the retirement of an elderly man becomes the cosmos’ means of paying him further honor. And while that in itself is extraordinary, it is even more extraordinary that significant parts of the Republican Party have now joined him in that belief, embracing Trump as another King David, as God’s anointed one, King Donald, the first of his name.
And who knows, maybe they’re right. It is not given us to know the mind of God, and maybe that mind is indeed that mischievous to the point of maliciousness. If America is the land of destiny, maybe this is what that destiny has been.
Me, I choose to believe otherwise. I choose to believe that our destiny remains in our hands, and that the best tool available by which to alter that destiny is the 2018 midterm elections. Even before the Kennedy retirement, this cycle loomed as the most important midterm in U.S. history, and this week’s news only confirmed that status.
In the weeks ahead, congressional Democrats will attempt to fight or at least delay confirmation of Kennedy’s successor, regardless of who it might be. They know that their base will stand for nothing less, that there is no chance whatsoever of Trump nominating a moderate to fill the vacancy, as Barack Obama attempted to do in the nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, and that abortion rights are in dire peril.
They also know that it’s a confirmation fight they will probably lose. It’s all about muscle now: Who has it, and who doesn’t. And the harsh truth is that for the time being, Mitch McConnell, Trump and the Republicans have it, and they will use it brutally, without regard for niceties, precedence, norms or tradition. Robert Mueller isn’t going to change it; only the voters can do so.
I keep thinking of the grand military parade that Trump has ordered up on Nov. 10, ostensibly to honor veterans but in fact to honor himself. It will come four days after the midterms, and if those elections produce the “red wave” that Trump predicts, that parade will serve as a Roman triumph for the conquering emperor, a confirmation of his glory. It won’t feature Hillary Clinton, James Comey and Maxine Waters being paraded by the viewing stand in chains, as the Romans would parade their defeated foes — at least I don’t think it will — but it will confirm both Trump’s megalomania and the country’s current path, wherever that may lead.
If instead a blue wave washes over the country, that parade will take on a much different tone, as will Washington itself in the months and years ahead. The time of choosing is upon us.