Aside from the possibility of declaring martial law or starting a nuclear war over a nasty tweet, Ross Douthat figures there are three “baseline dangers” from a Trump presidency:
- Sustained market jitters
- Major civil unrest
- Rapid escalation of risk in every geopolitical theater
This list demonstrates why the Republican Party was unable to stop Trump during the primaries: it could never come to grips with who he really is and what he appeals to. Conservatives, even reformish conservatives like Douthat, just won’t admit that the single biggest danger posed by Trump is that he has normalized a frighteningly unashamed race-based populism. They’ve never been willing to stomach the political cost of acknowledging this.
This is why Trump’s Republican opponents launched such feeble attacks on him. They couldn’t call him out for his racism because (a) he was just being a little more explicit about it than them, (b) it risked losing the tea party base, and (c) conservatives are not supposed to admit that racism exists. So Trump slid by, and then got clobbered by a Democrat who had no such constraints.
Trump has other appeals than just race. He’s got all the usual conservative hot buttons covered—taxes, abortion, Supreme Court justices, etc.—as well as a seductive pitch to the working class about bringing back their jobs. Nonetheless, race-based (and gender-based) resentment is clearly at the core of his campaign. If the Republican Party continues along the path of open white ethnocentrism that Trump has re-energized, it will be bad for the Republican Party and quite possibly devastating for the country. That’s the biggest risk of a Trump presidency.
Plus the nuclear war thing.