America: Four Possible Futures

Back in August 2016, I was pleased to have been able to amaze the world with an important literary discovery: a hitherto unknown manuscript by the famous Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

Everyone knows about Kurosawa’s classic 1950 film Rashomon. In that clever post-modernist exercise, the sanguinary tale of the woodcutter, the bandit, the wife, and the medium is told from several different perspectives, giving us in effect several different tales each of dubious narrative authority.

What the world had not previously known, but what I was pleased to reveal, was that Kurosawa, possibly in cahoots with his far-seeing medium, had privately given the 2016 U.S. presidential election the Rashomon treatment. In one scenario, Hillary, always the inevitable candidate, won hands down, shoulder pads nudging Bernie Sanders to the side of the road, pantsuit girded so she could walk like Nancy Sinatra right over The Donald.

There were other scenarios. One revealed just how sick, another just how corrupt, Hillary Clinton really was. She withdrew and Joe Biden, bravely doing it “for Beau,” stepped up to the plate and snapped up the top job.

Another scenario explored the unlikely and showed how Gary Johnson (remember him?) and William Weld insinuated themselves into the space between incredulity and contempt and rode the wave of discontent all the way to White House.

Then of course there were a couple of scenarios featuring Donald Trump. In one,

Paul Manafort quit as Trump’s campaign manager and went to work for Kim Jong Un. Eric and Ivanka Trump took their father aside and explained that the Trump brand would be unrecoverably damaged if he persisted with the campaign. Trump held a press conference at Trump Tower, announced that the election was “rigged” against him and withdrew from the race. Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels jumped into the race and led the Republicans to victory in November.

Remember, this was August!

Kurosawa’s final scenario was the most stunning. Looking forward to the first debate on September 26, he depicted Trump as the clear popular favorite. Then an alternative inevitability took over.

The polls began to wobble and then shift decisively in Trump’s favor. November 8 came and he won decisively, narrowly losing New York and even California, and sweeping Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Nate Silver, the sage of the poll FiveThirtyEight, announced his retirement and the #NeverTrump hashtag was rewritten to read #IKnewItAllAlong.

As I noted at the time, Kurosawa left no hints about which of his several scenarios would actually come true.

What I did not know then, but what I am delighted to announce now, is that Kurosawa left a second manuscript. This one is just a draft, with many scratchings out, unpolished prose, and incomplete plot lines. But it nonetheless makes makes for very interesting reading, for it bears on the post-election reality that Donald Trump would face. (Hermeneuts take note: the fact that Kurosawa had this second script lying around in his drawer strongly suggests that he knew, even though he never said, who would win in November 2016.)

As I say, this manuscript is far more fragmentary than the one about the election. Even its title is provisional. The cover says “Making America Great,” but there is a half-title page on which is typed “Making America Break” with two big question marks added in Kurosawa’s spidery hand.

Who knows what he really thought?

But here are the possibilities he limned:

Scenario One Disgraced former FBI Director James Comey’s bosom buddy Robert Mueller collected a large posse of lawyers from the deep bench of former Clinton and Obama supporters. Since Mueller had been handed a fishing pole and a bucket of bait by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy Attorney General who appointed him Special Counsel with the world as his portfolio, it was only a matter of time before they dredged up something embarrassing. It turns out that in 1998 Donald Trump had neglected to renew an elevator certificate in Trump Tower, the same year he pioneered TrumpSauce, a line of Russian Dressing to complement Trump Vodka (need we say more?). Mueller then impanelled a grand jury to consider the implications of these obvious ties to Russia and flagrant maladministration. Trump’s approval rating cratered, almost matching that of Congress itself. The House, though still staffed (I won’t say “controlled”) mostly by Republicans, began muttering in public about impeachment. Like Henry VI, Trump suffered a mental breakdown and Melania Trump and John Kelly effectively took over the running of the White House.

The rest of this scenario is lost. But then there is

Scenario Two Max Boot, Jonah Goldberg, and poor Gabe Schoenfeld declared themselves a new Triumvirate (supported by many other Optimates). Their primary platform revolved around the contention that no one could be allowed to be President of the United States without their permission. Unfortunately, someone leaked NSA dossiers on the triumvirs, secretly compiled in 2012 during the Obama administration when our intelligence agencies routinely spied on ordinary Americans (of course they don’t do that any more), and they had to emigrate to the Andes and take up llama farming.

Scenario Three In this dark scenario, Robert Mueller’s investigation actually does spark the impeachment of Donald Trump. It is not clear whether the Senate will vote to convict him, but Trump saves the country from that wrenching prospect by resigning, à la Nixon, “for the good of the country.” He takes his last flight aboard Marine One in April 2018. Five million females don vagina costumes and flood the Washington Mall in celebration. But what was meant to be an affirmation of democracy’s renewal turns tragic when President Mike Pence has the entire crowded rounded up and sent to prison camps scattered across the country. The news media is outraged but rendered impotent by a Presidential Order closing them all down. District Judges across the country issue temporary restraining orders “on a nationwide basis,” but no one pays them any attention.

Scenario Four Despite the increasing static from CNN, The New York Times, and other anti-Trump entities, Donald Trump soldiers doggedly on. He finally manages to get Congress to repeal Obamacare and manages to push through a tax bill that cuts the corporate tax rate to 15%, offers a one-tine repatriation-of-capital incentive of 10% for companies hoarding cash offshore, and lowers the top marginal rate to 36%. Growth picks up markedly, hitting 3.5% in the fourth quarter. America becomes the world’s largest exporter of energy and Trump’s attack on counterproductive regulation spurs a renaissance in business start-ups. A downside is that compliance offices in many companies shrivel in size or are abandoned altogether as companies no longer have to spend huge resources complying with an ever-proliferating phalanx of paralyzing rules and regulations. Compliance officers across the country swell the welfare rolls, but are gradually weaned from the public teat by grateful companies who are only too happy to provide private subsidies for their supererogatory former employees. Meanwhile, in North Korea, the pudgy dictator is incinerated by one of his ICBM tests gone awry, the two halves of Korea unite under the hegemony of the South, and millions of North Koreans are treated to their first Big Mac courtesy the U.S. government. A sad human, all-too-human coefficient of these developments is the collapse of Jim Acosta, who stopped shaving and was last seen in a rough part of Washington repeatedly reciting Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus.” Donald Trump endeavored to have him cared for by the VA but it turned out that Acosta had never served in the military.

That’s it. That’s how the second Kurosawa manuscript ends. We’ll never know what he really thought, but his oscillating clairvoyance suggestions a range of possibilities facing America. 1) The administrative state reasserts its dominance, bringing every facet of life under its purview and a new compilation of Brave New World and 1984 is produced by a committee staffed largely by employees from the IRS and the EPA as a training manual. Every home and public gathering place is required to broadcast CNN non-stop, around the clock, and the monitors broadcasting the news are equipped with microphones to pick up heterodox opinions, which are tagged by GPS locators in real time and sent to local police departments for “remediation.” 2) Donald Trump continues his wacky recalibration of American political life. Paul Ryan gets with the program and cajoles Congress to do its job and respond to what the people, not poor Gabe Schoenfeld, want. 3) Something else that I haven’t yet thought of. Last summer, I noted that

There is a powerful tendency to believe that, whatever local disruptions we face in the course of life’s vicissitudes, “normality” will soon reassert itself and the status quo ante will reinstall itself in the driver’s seat … Whether you embrace or repudiate Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton doesn’t signify in the context of my contention: the oddity of this campaign season is not over. We are likely to see not just local disturbances like the sudden sacking of campaign managers, but spectacular changes, reversals, upsets, and dei ex machina.

And I concluded thus: “This is the place where I might quote the philosopher Yogi Berra, that master of tautology, and mention that it is not over till it’s over, but then someone would likely remind me about the sonorous lady of adipose aspect, and I have too much regard for your fine feelings to subject you to that.”

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact


About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

45 responses to “America: Four Possible Futures

  • A fine and fascinating article, impressive for its balance no less than its humor.
    As I see it, we are currently watching a sprint race between two forces. One of the contestants is the exasperated feelings and needs of the American people (and indeed people throughout the western democracies) weary of all the devastating effects of globalisation, crony corporatism, unfair free-trade. They invest more and more in the Trump presidency as the sole engine they currently have for reversing those elitist policies.
    The other runner in the race is Big Money (Wall St, the banks, the Chamber of Commerce) and its fully owned employees – the Political Class (= both main parties), the Mainstream Media, the Bureaucracy (very much including Deep State). In addition these have their unholy allies in Academe and the Political Left generally – including the wild, violent Left. Big Money and its client cadres work (largely unconsciously) to recreate the world in the image of Brazil, because of their greed and stupidity. The Left want a Brazilian world owing to their fundamental motivation – totalitarian nihilism.
    At this present hour it is very hard to see who will prevail; who will breast the winning tape and gain ownership of the situation.
    On the one hand the wealth and power of Big Money and its client cadres is immense; and Trump and his administration have yet truly to go on the offensive against it. (To date no special counsel is appointed to investigate all the real crimes committed by leading Dems these past 10 years.) The President has effectually no support from the Republicans; they loathe his swamp-draining agenda. One would logically conclude that the opposition to the President will win.
    On the other hand the forces arrayed against Mr Trump must be disconcerted that the People have backed him in sufficient numbers; that their grievances are not going away (in an America where most middle-class and working-class families cannot afford a new car); AND THAT WITH THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2016 THEY HAVE TASTED BLOOD.
    The public now knows that it can strike back against the entirely ruinous and self-serving elites. Cracks in the dam wall of the elites’ power therefore have appeared; and candidates like Kid Rock in Michigan are working on prising them open.
    A complicating factor is the near-inevitability of war with N. Korea, and the collapse of the world economy – which latter has long been preparing and is about to eventuate, would do so if N Korea did not exist.
    When those earthquakes are over, who of the two runners in the sprint race will be left standing to complete the course? President Trump and his supporters in the nation or a strengthened Establishment?
    I don’t know. We live in interesting times.

    • Alpha306s

      Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !pa397:
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash397GroupWay/GetPay$97/Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::!pa397..,.

    • Hyper24s

      Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !al35d:
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash35BuzzNation/GetPay$97/Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::!al35z..,…

  • Even though it doesn’t look possible at this time, I think Scenario Four is the most likely.

    • Most likely?? Very likely. Not sure of N Kores, but Trump being the firsdt American president to investigate why the American worker is being priced out of the global jobs market will ensure his success. IF the economic growth hits 3% he is king!

  • What America needs is a Hollywood where Frank Capra directs Gary Cooper as POTUS, in Technicolor. Screenplay by Preston Sturges. Lassie runs into the burning White House to lead First Lady Melania (in a cameo) with the original U.S. Constitution, out of the White House China Room, through the tunnel to the WH swimming pool.

    Aaron Sorkin, and Michael Lewis, also cameos, are last seen broadcasting on Facebook, a YouTube for Vanity Fair, apologizing for their High Crimes and Misdemeanors, while eating two scoops of ice cream, in an endless loop.

    I am certain Peru would deny asylum to Max Boot. His only option is a cruise ship to nowhere, where the only game he can play is backgammon.

    Kurosawa would have known it is the cultureMedia that provides the narrative for our present, unprecedented insanity.

  • Editor: This piece did not get properly proofed. Shame.

    I know we are in a post-truth world, but is this publication also in a Gawker-esque post-grammar and post-spelling world too?

  • Hehehe, poor Mr. Kimball. Befuddled thinking, I guess.

    I like possible-future #5: Trump resigns saving America from crude, vicious authoritarianism, and renewing the belief by Americans that their leaders are possessed of Integrity, Ethics, and honesty.

    The rebound in America from from the restoration of Honesty in government drives a new spirit in America of our own ‘Exceptionalism’… and and economic rebound that advances the Middle Class top new heights of prosperity.

    • “crude, vicious authoritarianism” Huh, have I missed the establishment of concentration camps filled with anti-Trump supporters or the Administration’s use of the IRS to target individuals and groups who oppose Mr. Trump, unlike Obama apparatchik Lois Lerner and her buddies, Eric Holder’s use of the DOJ as a political arm of the Obama Administration, and if you want to talk about integrity, ethics, and honest, WJC and BHO were two POTUS who lied to the American people on numerous occassions, and lets not forget HRC’s willful destruction of 30,000 e-mails, calling those who disagreed with her campaign agenda “deplorables” or the CGI’s “play for play” operations? For someone who labels him/herself “Historybuff,” are you trying to prove to us how much you don’t know about history, for if you are, you’re doing a good job.

      • “crude, vicious authoritarianism”

        Hmmm. The kind that Google personifies?

      • That’s true. But he’s proof that Americans were desperate for an anti-Obama, someone to undo the harm that Obama and his cronies have done to the country.

    • Given your self proclaimed history ‘buffness’ WHEN was the last time you found “honesty” in our government?

    • Given your self-proclaimed history “buffness” when was the last time you saw honesty in government

    • #6: Civil War breaks out and we can finally wipe the Progs and Cucks like you from the face of the Earth. Civilization finally begins to advance again, cleansed of from government policy based on autism.

  • Well, I’m feeling more sanguine after reading the above, but, we still have to face down the Spectre of Leftist Monopoly of Power over America and It’s army of walking dead…this is the REALLY Scary Zombie movie….and it almost came true last Nov. 8th if HiLIARy had actually won….we’d all be watching her cough out her ‘Directives’ that we’d be compelled to comply to…..
    the WAR to Overturn Our Election……

    One Picture Equals 1000 Words…….

    You’ll need to enlarge this picture to view well……

    To enlarge or shrink the picture, click the double arrow > ……in the lower right hand corner to share on Facebook, Twitter, …….or just email this link to this Meme to a friend.

    And, you can scroll thru more memes……just click the arrows to the sides.

    ⤵ Up Votes? ……Comments? [I wonder what people think of these memes……I hardly get any feedback]

    • Wasn’t this exact scenario supposed to play out under the Obama Administration and he had 8 yrs to put it into effect?
      What happened? He must have forgot. Or maybe it was all nonsense then like it is all nonsense now. All except for the invasion of the UN black helicopters which will be coming soon to a red state near you.

    • Um.
      Ms Clinton isn’t President.
      And she won’t be.

      Keep up…stay current.

      And keep your eye on Franken.
      He will likely be the next Dem nominee.

  • Of course the only reasonable outcome is that several members of Trump’s Administration are indicted and Trump faces impeachment hearings..which of course, would lead to his resignation.

    This is actually the most likely this point.

    • Keep dreaming, buttercup, keep dreaming. That way you not only don’t have to worry about how your left coast Governor is hosing you, but how the Democrat Party is hosing you as well.

  • Interesting concepts, but it is more reasonable to refer to recent American history of the previous year, in which Trump was declared dead and buried with a stake in his heart by the majority of MSM magi. Then ask yourself whether it is likely for history to repeat itself .

  • I’m disappointed. Roger Kimball’s article was fantastic, the bad SF kind of fantastic.
    Not even a whiff of believability in there. As Trump would say on the campaign trail, sad.

  • I’m disappointed that no flight of fantasy emerged where the new Administration started issuing subpoenas and charging the obvious scofflaws of the last Administration with crimes committed. This action returning most Americans to a renewed respect for Law. Oh well, it is just imagination.

  • “America: Four Possible Futures”

    Hmmm … are there really four when the first three are and were never more than fantasies???

  • “Everyone knows about Kurosawa’s classic 1950 film Rashomon. In that clever post-modernist exercise, the sanguinary tale of the woodcutter, the bandit, the wife, and the medium is told from several different perspectives, giving us in effect several different tales each of dubious narrative authority.”

    Actually, NOBODY knows about that stupid film.


    I’m just sayin, pointy head.

  • You forget the fifth possibility – –
    Your mama’s gonna wash your mouth out with soap for making up so many fibs.

  • Scenario 5: To Thine Own Self Be True

    Kimball mans up and reads Culture of Critique.

    He finally understands that he himself has contributed to the Alt Right’s position on the JQ by writing The Long March.

    He finds the courage to admit that a life based on Boomer Conservatism is a life based on a lie.

    He uncucks himself and stops consorting with those whose very presence undermines the society.

    He replaces the bowtie with a gym membership.

    Finally, he jumps on the team and comes in for the big win: saving Western Civilization.

  • We now have the extractive economy squeezing every dollar and every increase of productivity from the employed for the benefit of our masters, the extractors. Meanwhile as we are all mugged we divide and argue over what?

    My internet service is crappy, the roads I drive are crappy, I have to pay premium extra to access working infrastructure, and my every day costs keep rising, energy efficiency is causing more cost to users to support the distribution system, more information is assembled to be used against a person. The rising diabetes and obesity epidemic is not discussed even though the costs of treatment will destroy our present Health Industry and Medical System.

    Rah rah. I think the author is completely out of touch with the reality of the nation

Comments are closed.