The impeachment of Donald J. Trump has clearly been a trip through Alice in Wonderland's magic looking glass. There is no other explanation. Consider why.
First, despite impeachment, Trump is the new Ike, that is president and general of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower, at least in terms of Republican support. The current Wall Street Journal/NBC poll measured the level of support for all presidents since Harry S. Truman about nine months prior to running for a second term in November. Ike had by far the strongest party support of any candidate -- 91 percent -- and of course easily won re-election.
Since then, according to this poll, only one president has come close to Ike's level: Trump. Among all Republicans, this president has an astounding 89 percent support or a statistical dead heat with the general who won the war in Europe. Political scientists and psychiatrists will spend decades arguing how and why this happened.
By this measure, Trump's chances of re-election are good. And should Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, the president's victory margin could make Sen. George McGovern's trashing by Richard Nixon in 1972 look like a "close run thing." Of course, November is far away in political terms.
Next, the acquittal of the president to occur Wednesday afternoon marks a dramatic turn in jurisprudence. Republican senators fully agree that House impeachment managers have made their case: Trump did abuse his powers by withholding vital military aid until Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to announce publicly investigations into the Biden family. But that behavior did not rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" and at worst was "inappropriate."
Apply that standard to future jury trials in American courts. After the foreman reads the verdict that "We, the jury find the defendant guilty of...," the judge rules that the behavior was only inappropriate and frees the litigant. After all, this is precisely what 51 senators decided after denying the request for additional witnesses. And some Republicans will complain that by knowing the Senate would never convict, why bring articles of impeachment at all.
According to this logic, then why prosecute anyone, given even the slightest unlikelihood of conviction? Alice would argue that this interpretation gives "innocent until proven guilty" new meaning. Or it reaffirms the wisdom of the Red Queen in calling for sentence before verdict.
Most Americans know where this is headed. Senate acquittal of the president will lead to countless victory laps, making the public dizzy. Bragging rights understate how Trump will trumpet both the "vindication" from the Mueller Report of no Russian collusion and the Senate's vote as proof positive of "witch hunts and hoaxes" by the Democrats trying to undo the 2016 election. But most worrying is the degree to which Trump will be empowered and unrestrained in using what his sees as his now unbridled authority as president.
Instead of impeachment constraining presidential irresponsibility, the opposite could occur. Despite Part II of the Mueller Report that outlined 10 possible scenarios for impeachment and lack of exoneration of foul play with Russia and now impeachment charges that were rejected, the president's base will respond powerfully, or at least 89 percent of it will if the Journal/NBC polls are accurate.
Should Trump win a second term, will his disruptive plans to "drain the swamp" and make scofflaw allies pay their fair share to compensate for America's role in defending them fully take hold? Given actuarial probabilities for a new Supreme Court associate justice, that appointment would make six conservative judges with profound consequences for Roe vs. Wade and other highly partisan issues. Trump could also make good on his original view that NATO is obsolete.
Another Donald -- Rumsfeld -- famously defined "unknown unknowns," that is not knowing what we don't know. Of course, events could conspire to defeat Trump. Mishandling the coronavirus; an economic meltdown; a decision to strike Iran; or the nomination of a credible opponent are not impossible. Still, at this point, Trump seems on a path to win in 2020.
Yet it is stunning that Trump's political support equals Eisenhower's. Pvt. Bone Spur now equates to a general of the army politically. And it is equally stunning, though not surprising, that for this to have happened, the GOP had to abandon the values of Abraham Lincoln and Ike. Further, the willingness of Senate Republicans to accept the prosecution's case and block any further action, even for witnesses, means that American politics are indeed operating inside the looking glass.
The only remaining question is this: When will the Red Queen turn into the Orange King?
Harlan Ullman is a senior adviser at the Atlantic Council. His latest book is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts." Follow him @harlankullman.