Almost two months into what is slated to be the most controversial American presidency since the Second World War, and pundits in the District of Columbia must already be running out of adjectives.
The fast-rising cliché concerning the literal or serious nature of Donald Trump’s campaign promises has been swiftly turned on its head since he was inaugurated on January 20, particular with an executive order temporarily barring travel to the United States from seven Muslim majority countries.
People are now taking The Donald somewhat at his word, at least for the time being.
But even with this latest turn, the notion that the Trumpster is simply not that interested in being president of the world’s greatest superpower – with all the boredom that entails – makes you wonder whether he will last the next four years.
Add to that his age, and the fact that a good portion of Americans must wish somebody would take a shot at him, and this makes for an ideal forecasting topic.
What are the chances that Donald Trump will complete his first term as president of the United States?
The Outside View
To get the long view of how likely it is any US president will fail to complete a term, we need to look at how many tenures have prematurely ended throughout the country’s entire history.
Of the 43 people who have served as president prior to Trump, nine have bowed out before completing one of their terms, four being assassinated, four dying of natural causes, and Richard Nixon resigning.
Do the maths and that gives each person elected president a 20.9 percent chance of failing to complete at least one of their terms — the kind of turnover that would make Australians pause.
For our purposes, an additional question is how many of these nine early exits occurred within the first term of the relevant president.
William Harrison, the first early exiter, famously died a month after taking office, in 1841; Zachary Taylor made is just over a year in office before snuffing it in 1850; Warren Harding made it almost two-and-a-half years until 1923.
Meanwhile, Franklin Roosevelt staggered into his fourth term in office before dying — making him the longest-serving US president in history, and perhaps forever given the subsequent two-term limit imposed on officeholders.
Of those that were assassinated (Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John Kennedy), only Garfield and Kennedy were in their first terms, in 1881 and 1963 respectively.
Nixon resigned in his second term in 1974, after winning re-election at the end of 1972.
With five previous presidents failing to complete their first terms out of 43, we can calculate that an elected president has an 11.6 percent chance of joining their ranks.
The Inside View
Judging by his first month in office, Trump’s administration is likely to beset with legal challenges, political strife, and the implosion of some of his policies.
The Donald’s failure to draw a line between his business and political interests also opens up avenues for him to be involved in a hefty corruption scandal further down the line, as do his shady dealings with the Russians.
No US president has ever actually been impeached and thrown out of office, though Nixon probably would have been if had not resigned. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House of Representatives, but let off by the Senate.
Trump is already showing signs that he plans to abuse – or at least misuse – his office. The only question is whether this will lead to him being impeached and removed.
Although some Republicans protested Trump’s rise during his election campaign, many of them seem cowed since they took office. The famous partisanship of Congress may well protect Trump from impeachment at least until the next congressional elections in 2018.
While a simple majority of representatives are needed to impeach a president – all House of Representatives seats being contest next year – two-thirds of the Senate will have to judge him guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanours”.
Right now the Senate is made up of 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents who lean blue. In the 2018 Senate elections, only 8 Republican seats are to be contested, compared to 25 Democrat seats.
Almost whatever way it goes it looks like Republican senators will have to be willing to remove The Trumpster from office in order for it to happen – making it a marginal chance, barring some catastrophic Trumpery.
That leaves the favourite horseman of the apocalypse: death.
US presidents, as indicated above, are rather good at snuffing it, whether it be a bog-standard disease or the country’s favourite brand of lead poisoning.
Trump, you may have noticed, is not in the best of nick. Aside from being a fatso, he’s also 70. Death clock gives him until Thursday, 6th April 2023 until he snuffs it, based on his age and body mass index (BMI).
That’s well into his second term, and given his wealth it’s fair to assume his predicted death would be later. Even so, there’s a chance a premature death or catastrophic illness could throw him out of office within the first term.
On the assassination side, it seems certain there will at least be both plots and attempts to kill Trump. Laying aside the bile of this election – almost every president since the Second World War has faced this threat, and someone even attempted to kill Trump on the campaign trail.
While it’s hard to ascertain whether Trump is more or less at risk than his predecessors, the tone of the election coupled with growing political instability makes “more” the better bet.
With our outside view we can say that Trump has an 11.6 percent chance of failing to finish his first term.
But taking account the whiff of corruption, the age and tubbiness of The Donald, and the likelihood of future assassination attempts, my view is that there is a 17 percent chance of the property mogul failing to complete his first term.
Image credit – Donald Trump by DonkeyHotey