During an interview on Monday, intergalactic space traveler and former GOP nominee Ben Carson was asked about his surprising endorsement of Donald Trump for president. This was Carson’s answer (emphasis mine):
"The way I look at it, even if Donald Trump turns out not to be such a great president — which I don’t think is the case, I think he’s going to surround himself with really good people — but even if he didn’t, we’re only looking at four years."
First, a little Marketing 101: When you’re vouching for someone, you don’t want to plant the seed that the person might be a total disaster. Generally, you want to convey confidence that your candidate will succeed, and not that there’s a possibility he’ll plunge us into nuclear winter.
Second, and more pressing, is Ben Carson’s shoulder-shrug that even if Trump crashes and burns, “We’re only looking at four years.” It’s only four years! I mean, what is that, 48 months? It’s not even 1,500 days! The reboot of 90210 lasted longer than that. Can you even remember that show? It was fine!
Odd as it may seem, the “It’s only four years” rationale keeps popping up in interviews with Trump converts, from his millionaire friend megadonors to his campaign volunteers. One of the first Trump boosters to invoke the four year term was Boston businessman and Trump fundraiser Ernie Boch Jr., during a radio interview back in March. The interviewer asked Boch why Massachusetts primary voters should elect Trump.
“It’s only four years! Let’s give him a shot,” Boch said.
“It’s only four years” is couched as a kind of familiar reassurance. You’ve probably heard this form of argument before, whether on one of those ESPN shows where sportswriters scream at each other about Cam Newton’s work ethic, or from friends gently prodding you into doing something you’re not convinced will be fun.
Not sure about this blind date? It’s only coffee! Trailer for Zootopia doesn’t do anything for you? The runtime’s only 90 minutes! You think Tim Tebow’s a horrible quarterback? The Jets are 3-12 this year, and Tim Tebow’s not gonna make it much worse. It’s only one game!
The problem, of course, is that playing quarterback for the Jets and assuming the office of President of the United States are different things. At best, a President Donald Trump would select a Supreme Court justice or two; at worst, he’s got access to the nuclear codes.
A lot can happen in four years. Need proof? Four years ago, Donald Trump was tweeting with surprising vigor about Robert Pattinson’s relationship with Kristen Stewart. Today, he is bragging about his Republican primary wins in Missouri and Florida.
Four years might not be a long time if you’re committing to undergrad at NYU; it’s a bit longer when you’re considering a president who wants to build an enormous wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and blockade an entire religion’s people from even visiting the country as tourists. A politician's influence can be felt a lot longer than his or her term served, especially when that politician has the ability, as Trump does, to rally dangerous extremists and incite violent behaviors.
Think of your least favorite recent president, and then think of his legacy. Wouldn’t it be better if that figure had served zero years, instead of four?