Trump lost but who will have the last laugh?

Breakfast with Bwana

By Anil Madan

As we look back to June 2015, it would have been hard to predict that Donald Trump, riding down the escalator in Trump Tower would affect this nation so profoundly.

In November 2020, even in losing the election, Trump has taken on a messianic aura with his followers. One is tempted to think that if he had proclaimed himself a new prophet, he could have sold whatever religion he wanted. It may yet happen. The Church of the Last Laugh. It might have been.

Even in losing the election, Trump has taken on a messianic aura with his followers. One is tempted to think that if he had proclaimed himself a new prophet, he could have sold whatever religion he wanted. Photo –

The apparent truth is that in November 2020, just about two weeks ago, Trump flopped. He evolved into a colossal failure, taking on the mantle of the Ouroboros. (The ouroboros is often interpreted as a symbol for eternal cyclic renewal or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth.) But is this the end of the Trumpian era? Was he truly the loser? Who will have the last laugh?

One is tempted to think that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be laughing all the way, he to the White House and she to the Vice Presidency, she a heartbeat away from becoming the first woman to lead (or try to lead, as many previous Vice Presidents have tried) the nation. She may well be the next President even before the four-year term is up. That’s a last-laugh performance if things so unfold. But we have to wait and see.

No matter what, theirs is not as big a last laugh as Mitch McConnell — Moscow Mitch — gets. While we may think of Trump as having nominated three Supreme Court justices and 224 federal judges so far, the real credit here goes to McConnell. And his laugh is deep, profoundly impactful, and essentially irreversible. McConnell was single-handedly responsible for stalling the confirmation of federal judges, even of a Supreme Court justice when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland. When he got the chance with a Republican president in the White House, he acted swiftly. Trump gets the nominal credit here but the reality is that he picked judges from a slate of candidates vetted by the Federalist Society. 

As people look back on America four decades from now, the federal judiciary populated by McConnell judges and three Supreme Court justices will have had a profound rightward shift in American jurisprudence. Who knows how regulatory action will be slowed down and who knows how profoundly free-for-all capitalism will have taken hold?

Not to be missed is the fact that his wife Elaine Chao has been a cabinet secretary in the George W. Bush administration (Secretary of Labor) as well as in the Trump administration (Secretary of Transportation). He whose wife laughs with him laughs longest.

America will evolve from a white majority country to a brown majority nation. But contrary to expectations of even two decades ago, the dominant brown people will not be Hispanics but Indians, not of the feather, but of the subcontinent. Even now, Indians have assumed the helm of many of America’s largest corporations: Google, Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, Mastercard, Arista Networks, Nokia, Palo Alto Networks, Micron, Reckitt Benckiser. And they will be prominent voices in biotech and medical circles, perhaps in politics too.

Among Democrats Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer may rejoice at having done in Donald Trump. Perhaps their impeachment sullied Trump enough and led to his loss. But then, their party’s candidates suffered profoundly at the polls. Surely, not the last laugh for them as voters seem to have rejected the Democrats’ homegrown brand of socialism.

It is difficult to see the Republican Party prevailing with its right-wing, religion-crazed, Democrat-hating, gun-toting, anti-government stance. But if anyone could miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, the Democrats can.

The opening for a third party, even a fourth party is gaping.

Can those who led the charge of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and the crusade against institutional racism claim the last guffaw here? Sadly, those movements have transmuted into misdirected violence and they may have lost the plot. That is no laughing matter. These movements spell more doom for the Democratic Party and its hoped-for brand of new socialism.

One might think that China will have the last laugh here as well with Trump gone. Contrarily, as ineffective as Trump’s attempts to rein China’s expansionist policies have been, he has succeeded in exposing them. The jury is out on this one. Will Biden have the nerve and the insights needed to curb what could be an existential threat to U.S. dominance and the survival of Nepal, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan? Again, no laughing matters here.

The media, particularly the left-leaning media: CNN, MSNBC, NBC, the NYT, Washington Post, The Atlantic, may be tempted to laugh that they did Trump in. Perhaps they did, as much as he did himself in. Some years ago, with his characteristic braggadocio, Trump declared that HE was responsible for the revival of the “failing” New York Times and other media outlets. He may have had a point. These media outlets will have little cause to laugh as the Internet era produces realignments and shifts. News is no longer reliably just news but is an opinion pancake slurped with syrupy “analysis” to project a viewpoint. One has to believe that discerning listeners and viewers will be driven away while those seeking confirmation bias are likely to get bored with their own inanity.

America faces great challenges, as great as ever in our history. Chief among these are the current immediacy of the Covid-19 pandemic. After that, not necessarily in order of importance, for they are all profound, are the need to revamp our infrastructure, the reality of China as a competitor and even an existential threat, an immigration system that has gone beyond collapse, soaring deficits and an untenable level of the national debt, a profound societal division at home, a dysfunctional healthcare system that works well at some level but not for all, economic and racial tensions that will test how we make equal opportunity a reality without succumbing to handouts to placate the less fortunate, and the challenged of becoming, once again, a melting pot where everyone is welcome in the mix and viewed as an American, and not as a distinct element.

We have seen that the Covid-19 virus has nearly had the last laugh. Perhaps Pfizer, Moderna, and the other technology companies that have developed vaccines will let us laugh again as a nation.

If that laugh lasts, America will have the last laugh. If not, it is no laughing matter.

As for Donald Trump, we have yet to see his next act.


* Published in print edition on 20 November 2020

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