Trump isn’t toast yet

Save the Champagne. The FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Florida estate probably doesn’t mean anything.

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A police car Monday outside the Mar-a-Lago estate of former President Donald Trump, who said his residence in Florida was being “raided” by FBI agents.

GIORGIO VIERA, Getty

World War II lasted exactly six years. Six years and one day, to be precise, from the German Panzers rolling into Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, to the Japanese signing articles of surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.

A long time. An era.

Speaking of experiences that seem to go on forever, Donald Trump has already been gleaming at the center stage of our transfixed national attention for longer than World War II was fought.

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From June 16, 2015 — setting aside his previous career as real estate tout and TV game show host — when he descended that glass escalator in the gaudy marble lobby of Trump Tower and announced, “The American dream is dead. But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better.”

And people believed him.

To Monday, when the FBI raided his equally tasteless Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, reportedly looking for classified presidential records that he took with him instead of turning them over to the government, as the law requires.

Seven years, plus seven weeks. And counting.

Of course, unlike the ceremony in Tokyo Bay, the Mar-a-Lago milestone is not the end. Nowhere near. If the nation has learned one thing from the entire Trump fiasco — and it might not have, but let’s pretend — it’s to never put too much emphasis on any one event or statement, no matter how jaw-dropping or norm-shattering or horrific.

Never count Trump out. So long as the former president has breath to lie with, he’ll plow forward, masses of supporters furiously following along in his wake, like pilot fish hungry for chum.

Trump wasn’t finished when he dissed American POWs, or admitted on camera to assaulting women, or mocked a handicapped reporter. Vermont Gov. Howard Dean gave one enthusiastic whoop, “Yeah!” and scuttled his presidential campaign in 2004. Trump sicced a mob on the Capitol and then sat back grinning while it sacked the place. His support remained intact. The Republican presidential front-runner.

Harms bounce off Trump and damage everything around him. If Trump loses an election, then the election has to have been rigged. Boo free elections! Similarly, if the FBI and the Justice Department have enough evidence that he committed crimes to raid his home, then the FBI and Justice Department must be corrupt. It was almost funny to see the same people decrying calls to defund the police suddenly turn on the G-men with a howl.

I’ve said it before: Once you get in the practice of ignoring reality, the specifics of the reality being ignored hardly matter. Trump taught America you, too, can live in a fantasy world of your own invention, constantly spout demonstrable lies and never be held accountable.

Underline never. A lot of premature jubilation online on the part of Democrats after Monday’s raid. Calm down. Even optimism is premature. Expect the man to be reelected in 2024, through fraud or, heck, maybe legitimately, to the degree that anything related to Donald Trump can be called “legitimate.” He’ll return to dismantling American society and democracy with more zeal, experience and focused effort. More violence, surely.

To view the future any other way seems naive, overoptimistic, even reckless.

Time will not soften Trump’s base. A 2019 poll found 70% of Russians approve of Stalin, who colluded with Hitler and was himself responsible for twice as many deaths. You could lock Trump up tomorrow for giving Alaska back to Moscow as a birthday gift to Vladimir Putin and 70% of Republicans would still adore him 50 years from now. Their Mandela. The new Jesus, whose messy end only made their passion burn brighter.

It’s too late. Should Trump be muscled into prison, his playbook — shamelessly lie, demonize opponents, claw for money, undermine any institution that opposes you — has already been scattered to the wind, its pages picked up, carefully studied and vigorously applied. Sure, it’s hard to imagine masses of followers howling for Ron DeSantis. But it was also hard to imagine them adoring Trump.

I’m not saying this to sow despair, but to encourage resolve. Freedom is not free, as the vets say. It must be guarded, constantly, and fought for, periodically. Even when you think you’ve finally won, you haven’t. Less than five years after Americans were dancing in the streets to celebrate end of World War II, our soldiers were being overrun by North Korean tanks at Osan.

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