As the days, weeks and months pass by in what has turned out to be a horrible 2021 for the future prospects of the American nation, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that former president Donald Trump intends to go forward with another run in 2024.
Of course, Trump still hasn’t made a formal announcement, but the tone of commentary from those “in the know” leads one to the same or a similar conclusion: he’s going to do it. Part of the reason for assuredness is leaks and whispers from people close to Trump. Another clue is Trump’s post-presidency behavior, which isn’t quite akin to his demeanor while in office, but his multiple appearances and rallies across the country -- in key swing states and early GOP nominating areas -- lend themselves towards another campaign.
Naturally, Trump’s tens of millions of backers (“fans” for lack of a better way to put it) are titillated and thrilled at the thought of seeing their hero out on the road again full-time, drawing crowds by the tens of thousands and speaking with his characteristic off-the-cuff style that is one part pep rally, one part serious overview of the nation’s political dilemmas and one part… rock concert?
Not even the followers of the Beatles or Elvis Presley could compare to the adoring throngs of red MAGA hat wearing Trump supporters. “Cult of personality” is an often-used term to describe political leaders like John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama (not me personally, but he did stir up liberals like crazy in 2008). Trump’s backers didn’t exactly swoon like the mind-transfixed adherents of Obama, but the emotions were similar.
Since it seems likely that Trump will at least be on the GOP ballot in a few years’ time, people are talking about what kind of party primary competition he should face. Trump himself has said he expects most if not all potential challengers to simply drop out or declare that they’re not going to stand in his way.
Nevertheless, there almost certainly will be some who are brave enough to give it a shot. One particularly astute observer believes a viable field is a good thing. Kurt Schlichter wrote at Townhall last week:
“This should not be a coronation. Trump has to earn his right to make his Grover Cleveland move. That means a real primary with a real challenger, not a media-driven, toobinesque vanity run by some Never Trump doofus like Larry Hogan or the Beltway Cowgirl, who will have nothing to do after being tossed from office next year…
“We also need assurance that Trump has fixed his personnel problems. The fact that Ronna McDaniel is still around after botching the election integrity fight for him is unsettling. But the fact that, towards the end, he hired solid folks, including Mike Pompeo, is hopeful. It would be good to see Pompeo ask Trump in a debate why he didn’t fire Tony Fauci and Chris Wray – and for Trump to answer ‘I should have, and I learned that lesson. No slack during Trump 2.0!’...
“Bringing up tough questions and having Trump address them is the most important reason we need a primary challenge, even one that’s relatively hopeless. We need Trump to confront his mistakes and assure us he’s learned his lessons. The guy accomplished amazing things even with the entire establishment against him and despite his self-inflicted wounds. We can’t assuage the establishment’s fury, but imagine what he will do with fewer own-goals. And imagine how angry the establishment hacks will be when he beats them again.”
Yes indeed. The GOP establishment will shake like rats on a cold winter’s night if Trump joins the fray and their tremors will morph into convulsions if he locks up the nomination in an undefeated fashion. As I’ve suggested a lot recently, Trump would likely sweep the early states and the race would be over by Super Tuesday. This would be a great thing for the chances of the 2024 Republican ticket, but, as Schlichter advised, a competitive primary would also be welcomed.
Why? First because it’s necessary, as Schlichter pointed out, but also because it would bring real substance-oriented interest and discipline to Trump the candidate. Trump the first-time candidate was terrific in 2015 and ’16 because he found the coast wasn’t clear, which forced him to hone his knowledge of the issues rather than simply state, “I will bring the best people into my administration and I will Make America Great Again.”
The media savaged Trump as a mindless celebrity candidate who fueled his run with anger and name-calling. Sure, there was plenty of these things as well, though by doing so, Trump connected with the feelings of millions of “forgotten Americans” across the country. It allowed him to secure Ohio (formerly known as a toss-up) and Florida and also compete in other rust belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Even Minnesota came into play -- and those Gopher State nuts hadn’t voted for a Republican since Nixon in 1972.
Trump needs competition. And, similar to a boxing sparring partner, he should have someone like Pompeo or Ted Cruz or Chris Christie or (name your establishment candidate here) or John Kasich -- or all of the above -- to stand alongside on a debate stage and challenge not only the status quo, but also require Trump to answer for the mistakes he made in his first four years.
Unlike Democrats, Republicans typically prefer competitive primaries where the ultimate winner isn’t always the one the establishment prefers. With the possible exception of Obama, Democrats have used their nominating process to rubber stamp the party elites’ choice. Hillary Clinton did face a bit of a challenge from Bernie Sanders in 2016, though everyone knew from the outset that Bill Clinton’s wife would prevail in the end. As she herself declared, it was her turn.
Democrats go on perceived electability. Republicans -- at least in the post-Mitt Romney universe -- favor anti-establishment candidates with street credibility with the grassroots.
After Trump took over in 2016, conservative and Republican voters want to see candidates vying for their support. Do you think anyone in Democrat-land doesn’t wish there were more and better choices for themselves in early 2020? Joe Biden’s always been regarded as an idiot, but he still was seen as the best suit to challenge Trump because the media sold his reputation as a bipartisan coalition builder and all-around great guy. Look how that turned out!
Schlichter is also correct in arguing that Trump messed up his personnel strategy in his administration. Perhaps because of naivety, he allowed too many establishmentarians to infiltrate his inner circle, starting with appointing Reince Priebus to be his co-chief of staff. Steve Bannon didn’t work out either, but that’s another story.
As conservative icon Richard Viguerie has repeatedly preached, personnel is policy. Trump’s selection for heading up his White House personnel office, Johnny DeStefano, was a disaster. So was his succession of Chiefs of Staff and his trust in former military leaders to carry out his policy preferences. Anyone remember Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State? Or ruling class stooge Dan Coats for Director of National Intelligence? Or how about Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General at the outset of the bogus “Russian collusion” investigation?
If he picks the wrong people again, just think of the tell-all books that are waiting to be written.
Trump must also pledge to lay waste to the “deep state” imbedded in the federal intelligence agencies and bureaucracy. If the underlings won’t do as the president commands, fire ‘em. The media and the Democrats will go crazy, but the voters will love it. It’s not that hard to figure out, really. The Republican president sabotaged his own effectiveness by keeping Obama retreads like James Comey and Rod Rosenstein in place. It can’t happen again.
The establishment won’t go away easily, even with a Trump repeat candidacy. Liz Cheney has said she’s considering a presidential run, but who would be stupid enough to invest money in her campaign? Cheney won’t even win her state primary for her House seat next August -- what basis is there for a national run in 2024? How many embittered anti-Trump sore losers like Cheney are still standing after Joe Biden’s disastrous first ten months?
Speaking of possible establishment representatives on a GOP debate stage, former New Jersey governor and 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie isn’t dismissing rumors that he’s thinking about another run -- and he’s said that his decision won’t be influenced by Trump’s yea or nay on the matter. Christie is responsible for perhaps the 2016 race’s most memorable moment, when he all-but ended Marco Rubio’s chances in New Hampshire with his famous “memorized 25-second speech” jab at a debate before the Granite State primary.
Christie isn’t afraid to speak up, either, which could create some interesting moments with Trump on stage. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
I agree with Kurt Schlichter. If Donald Trump has indeed decided he’s going to run for president again in 2024, there should be other Republican candidates to challenge him in the campaign. Not only are there unresolved issues from 2020, Trump needs to get in “sparring shape” to take on whoever the Democrat nominee will be. The best way to do it is to have to earn another nomination. Bring it on.
Donald Trump 2024
2024 Republican presidential field
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