I think that Michael Anton is correct that “the people who really run the United States of America have made it clear that they can’t, and won’t, if they can help it, allow Donald Trump to be president again.”

“The people who really run the United States”: that would be denizens of the Swamp, the bureaucratic elite, their media and academic mouthpieces, worker bees in the ambient welfare jelly and the nomenklatura who win elections and circulate in and out of the corridors of power.

It’s a powerful, nearly monolithic force, a monument to special privilege and two-tier justice...

I think that Michael Anton is correct that “the people who really run the United States of America have made it clear that they can’t, and won’t, if they can help it, allow Donald Trump to be president again.”

“The people who really run the United States”: that would be denizens of the Swamp, the bureaucratic elite, their media and academic mouthpieces, worker bees in the ambient welfare jelly and the nomenklatura who win elections and circulate in and out of the corridors of power.

It’s a powerful, nearly monolithic force, a monument to special privilege and two-tier justice — and the prospect of dismantling it is daunting to say the least. The fact that Donald Trump, from the moment he sailed down the elevator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy in 2015, managed to open a bleeding fissure in that smug consensus shows why the ruling class considers him so dangerous. One man, almost without allies, inexperienced in the ways of the Swamp, dependent at every turn on ambassadors and front men from the very thing he had campaigned to destroy: how much damage could he really do?

Look around. Is there anyone, anyone at all, who occupies more space in the political ecosphere than Donald Trump? His every endorsement garners national headlines. His trolling of Democrats in various New York House races does the same. No wonder Dick and Liz Cheney, talking orifices for the Swamp, provided sound bites for the mass market edition of Michael Anton’s essay. In the entire history of the United States, quoth Cheney père, no individual has presented a greater threat to the republic than Donald Trump. Gosh. Really, Dick? Do you think wearing a cowboy hat while you say that makes it more plausible?

But look at what just happened. Donald Trump was instrumental in Liz Cheney’s crushing defeat in the Wyoming GOP primary earlier this week. Of course, Liz Cheney helped. Her obsession with Trump was her undoing. But the consensus that she and her father represent underscores the panic coruscating through the arteries of the Deep State. Like many others, they have reached for the rhetoric of revolution to oppose Trump. They have vowed to do “whatever it takes,” to employ “any means necessary,” to keep him from getting “anywhere near the Oval Office” again. This panicked extremism has not only been ratcheted up against Trump — and it’s not only rhetoric, as last week’s FBI Stasi-like raid against Trump’s residence in Palm Beach reminds us — it has also and increasingly been wielded against anyone who can be presented as being allied with the spirit of Trumpism.

But here’s a question: is there a sliver of light shining through Michael Anton’s assessment? Maybe. After all, he says that the regime will not allow Trump to become president again “if they can help it.” Can they?

I don’t know the answer to that. Many commentators say that Trump’s signal failure the first time around was in not securing a broad and deep enough cadre of allies. He really was a political outsider. Hence the disastrous Cabinet appointments, the inability to get the sprawling bureaucracy of the executive branch on board with his administration. And then there was — there is — the civil service write large. All those layers upon layers of sticky Deep State presumption: how can any one man, however dedicated a team he leads, cut through it?

Trump has plans in place to purge the civil service if reelected. Will it work? I don’t know. But the mephitic cauldron of the civil service is not Trump’s only problem. If Peter Navarro, the former assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, is right, one of his chief liabilities is closer to home. According to Navarro, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, “did more damage to the presidency and the Trump agenda during his four year reign of error at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than anyone.” Kushner, Navarro continues, (or “Kushner/Rasputin” as he sometimes designates him, is “the man most responsible for the loss of the Trump White House.”

Actually, I think there are many contenders for that title, but I suspect that Navarro has a point. “Ultimately,” he argues,

the biggest failure of the 2020 election was the failure of the Trump campaign itself. The campaign went from the beautifully orchestrated Steve Bannon masterpiece in 2016, with twenty people on Trump Force One barnstorming flyover country, to the ugliest equivalent of Hillary Clinton’s beyond-bloated Hindenburg of a campaign in just four years.

It seems pretty clear, at any rate, that Kushner was not on board with Trump’s America First agenda. At the center of that agenda were the imperatives to “buy American” and “hire American.” Kushner, by contrast, a beaming “Wall Street transactionalist,” was as committed to the elite globalist agenda as much as Larry Fink.

If Kushner was so deeply at odds with Trump’s America First agenda, how could he have been such an important player in the Trump White, handed a portfolio of responsibilities which included everything from border security to trade with China to the Middle East? According to Navarro, there is “simply no other explanation than nepotism.”

And what does that portend for the future? I think the jury is still out. Navarro may be optimistic that “if Trump makes it back to the White House, it will be a Kushner-free zone.” Trump is, by all reports, very close to his daughter Ivanka, Jared’s wife, and that tie may well preclude his political ostracism.

But in the larger sense, I think Navarro’s warning is correct. If Trump is to succeed, he needs to extricate himself from the Swamp. But the Swamp is well nigh ubiquitous. It supports and has infused its spirit into close members of his family, even. It has also insinuated itself in the America First Policy Institute, a nominally Trump-friendly think tank whose members include many anti-Trump figures.

My point is simply that forces stacked against the successful return of Donald Trump are formidable. Some commentators sympathetic to his his agenda are speaking about “Trumpism without Trump.” My own suspicion is that without Trump, anything put forward as “Trumpism” would be a masquerade, just another version of elite, beltway bureaucratic surrender, enlivened here and there with little dollops of robust-sounding rhetoric.

So we are left with a paradox: Donald Trump is far and away the most vital political force in American politics. He supplies almost all the oxygen for public debate. But “the people who really run the United States of America” have decided that he is unacceptable. Where does that leave us? It depends on two things. One, how far the opponents of Trump are willing to go to keep him out of power (“whatever it takes”?). Two, how far the rest of the country — the tens of millions of people who support Trump — are willing to allow the anti-Trump leviathan to go.

No one, I think, knows the answer to either question. It seems pretty clear, though, that we are in for a yeasty couple of years.