Trump is not normal. He should not be treated as normal. I quite agree. But how normal has it been in US politics for a not-normal possibility to loom, as a real possibility?
We don’t write histories of the New Deal as “The Period When, But For An Assassin’s Bullet, Huey Long Might Have Changed Everything”. We call that period: The New Deal.
We don’t write histories of the Clinton Era as “The Period When, If He Hadn’t Dropped Out, Before Getting Back In, Ross Perot Might Have Been President”. We call those years: The Clinton Years.
If Trump had lost in 2016, I don’t know what era we would be in but it wouldn’t be “The Almost-Trump Years”.
We don’t do Almost Black Swan, when it comes to labeling eras. But, as in horseshoes and hand-grenades, ‘almost’ ought to count for something. Huey Long and Ross Perot are the populist ringers that occur to me as obvious Trump analogs. How many radical ‘almosts’ have their been, over the years? Suppose you went back through your US history textbook, reheading all the chapters. What are the biggest, craziest ‘almosts’ that barely weren’t?
This is, to repeat, not an argument for regarding Trump as normal.