The Next President Won't Actually 'Win'

In retrospect, the postwar American world can be said to have gone off the rails in one of two places.

Liberals will put the date in March 2003, when the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein began. Although the action was supported at the time by both political parties, the outrage liberals felt at what they believed to be the deception surrounding the operation made the second critical date inevitable: the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

Obama was regarded -- and is still regarded -- by many conservatives as possessing the same degree of delegitimizing characteristics now attributed to Donald Trump. In this view, the accession of Obama, not the invasion of Iraq, marked the moment Everything Changed. It also made the rise of Trump historically inevitable.

The chain runs thus: Iraq --> Obama --> Trump/Hillary. Where you start is optional. Where you end is unknown. (Ironically, September 11, 2001, plays an ambiguous role in the historiography. For some reason that date is regarded by some as occurring Before the Fall.)

While the path leading to the present is disputed, no one appears to deny America has now arrived in a critical place. The abnormality is most evident in this presidential contest: neither candidate is widely supported by the nominating parties. Neither candidate is actually expected to solve the multiple foreign policy and domestic crises currently besetting the country. In fact, one candidate may have helped cause many of the current problems. The other's main attraction is simply that he may function as a demolition charge which will clear out the roadblocks that have paralyzed America.

If political columnist Ron Fournier is right about this election cycle, it is less about achieving incremental policy change than precipitating a radical institutional change.

In that case, the current unpopularity contest can be seen as a deliberate process to increase instability by hoping the worst man wins. Halt the status quo, tear things down and start afresh.

Intentional or not, the effect of a rising level of physical assaults on the Trump political rallies will continue the arc of reaction/counter-reaction. If the recent beating of Trump supporters in San Jose can be justified by indignation over The Donald, then Trump in turn owes his existence to disgust over Obama, which in turn was caused by Iraq. It is, as the old story goes, turtles all the way down. The inevitable radicalization of Trump's supporters in the wake of these assaults will extend the chain of causality until we run out of links.