Where Goest Trump from Here
For some of my friends, it is premature to address the Trump presidency in the past tense. Their hope for a dramatic shift in the vote calculations springs eternal. I admire their tenacity and loyalty – and would be happy to discover that they were more prescient – or better informed — than me. Unfortunately, I must stick with my sad belief that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States.
I can only imagine the grim future we face with the enhanced power of the radical left. Regardless of whether Biden will govern from center left or far left, the most radical wing of the Democratic Party wields greater power than ever – even greater than in the left-wing authoritarian days of Franklin Roosevelt and his openly socialist Vice President Henry Wallace.
Those of us on the conservative side will be battling in a political war that has been declared on our principles, our leaders – and on us personally. That will consume the future.
Any questions over the presidency – and who will sit in the Oval Office after January 20th – should be settled on December 14th when the Electoral College meets to cast their votes. They are empowered by the Constitution to select the future President. They are not bound by popular vote, certification of the states or anything but their own reason for casting their individual votes. Although there have been “faithless electors” who did not vote as they promised or as their state certified – but they are rare and have never changed an outcome.
So, what role will President Trump play in future politics? Does he even have a political future?
To some extent, his future may depend on how he ultimately surrenders power to Biden – or if he engages in any mischief as his hate-driven critics conjecture. I do not believe he will. Regardless, as of January 21st, Trump will be a private citizen again.
Trump has a sizeable constituency of die-hard personal loyalists – arguably in the range of 20 to 25 million people. They will give him power as a charismatic leader –a role Trump most certainly will want to play. But they are not a majority even in the Republican Party.
A second problem is all those messy legal issues and court cases that were held at bay by the shield of the presidency. Though his critics would wish otherwise, Trump is not particularly vulnerable for his actions as President of the United States. However, he has been the target in a number of suspended investigations for matters dealing with his pre-presidency business activities. The most serious appears to be tax evasion or even tax fraud. Conviction on such felony charges often results in jail time.
This creates a dilemma for Democrats – and especially Biden. While we often refer to the rule-of-law and that no person is above the law, we also cringe at the thought of putting an ex-President in the hoosegow. It is one of those sociological anomalies that could work against Democrats for even attempting to jail Trump for any reason.
The most significant question is whether Trump would wish to – or will attempt to – return to the Oval Office in January of 2025. From what we know of him as a tenacious individual who never likes being the loser at the end of the game, he is likely to want to pursue that restorative possibility.
No candidate for President ever looked more done than did Vice President Richard Nixon after his defeat in 1960 followed by his defeat for California governor in 1962. Even he was dubious of a comeback when he told reporters that “you will not have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore.” Six years later, he was elected President of the United States.
It may be that Trump’s only chance at political relevancy would be a run in 2024. He is not about to get a college presidency, become CEO of a major foundation or get a major media gig.
The press that has never given Trump a fair shake during his presidency will continue to accentuate the negative if and when they give him any coverage at all. They would be more than happy to turn his public persona into the invisible man. With Trump, that will not be easy – maybe impossible.
There is also an issue of age. Trump would be 79 years old on January 20, 2025. President Reagan was thought to be too old for a comeback when he lost the Republican nomination in 1976, but he was elected in 1980. He was then 69 years old – the oldest first-term President until Trump was elected at the age of 71. Biden trumped Trump by being elected at the age of 78. If Trump were to make a comeback, he would be 79 on Inauguration Day. A lot for Trump may depend on how well Biden survives his years in the White House. Too many senior moments or any incapacities would probably doom a late-age comeback for Trump.
Then there is the fundamental question: Would Trump stand a chance of again securing the Republican nomination and going on to victory. Nothing is impossible, but here are a few things working against Trump.
- As noted above, age would be a factor. The nation’s tendency to seek a new generation of leadership from time-to-time has been thwarted by a succession of older and older nominees. Republicans have several good younger choices to offer up.
- In 2016, Trump won despite his personality, in 2020, he lost because of it. Unless he has a personality transplant, his negatives will still be very high.
- He won the 2016 GOP nomination on a technicality – a fluke, if you will. He never would have made it were it not for such a large field of opponents dividing up the vote. He also faced an extraordinarily unpopular Democrat candidate. That is not likely to happen again.
- He has not expanded his support base. He is not going out on a wave of popularity. The greatest erosion will be among those who winced over his personality but voted on issues. They will be looking for a candidate that reflects their issues without the drag of a rather unpleasant and provocative personality. Many cast ballots for Trump when it was a binary choice – when the Democrat candidates were the greater of two evils. That will not be the case when presented with a choice among numerous candidates in future Republican primaries.
- If the investigations result in criminal convictions – even without jail time – the chances of a comeback would collapse to near zero.
- Better alternatives. Conservative Republicans will have a number of good choices in 2024 – better known and better liked than they were in 2016. That includes Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator and Ted Cruz. Less appealing to conservatives, but still with potential, is Utah Senator Mitt Romney.
If you are inclined to play the odds, I rate the chances of a Trump comeback as less than 50/50. But that is still a better chance than I gave him in 2016. So as Trump so often says, we’ll have to wait and see.
So, there ‘tis.