Will former President Donald Trump run again in 2024?
He was coy about the idea while speaking Saturday at a rally in Commerce, Georgia. But not too coy.
While endorsing various local candidates, Trump uncharacteristically identified himself with the Republican Party.
Often key players in Trump’s view of the domestic political landscape consist of Democrats, Republicans and himself.
That’s a concept that has played well with the Republican grassroots base, alienated from party leadership, that is fond of Trump.
But Saturday, while advocating a 2022 Republican takeover of Congress, Trump repeatedly used the term “we.”
“One of the first things we must do when Republicans retake Congress is stop Joe Biden’s inflation nightmare.”
“…With your vote we will bring Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi’s socialist spending spree to a screeching halt. We’ll do that very quickly.”
“… [W]hen we retake Congress, Republicans will ban critical race theory in our schools, ban it in our military and ban it … in every part of our federal, state and local governments.”
So what’s Trump’s frame of reference? Is he speaking as a would-be presidential candidate? Or as a senior statesman in the Republican Party — a position he already holds among the base and is begrudgingly recognized by some of the establishment?
Has he even decided himself what he will do?
There’s a lot to commend Trump running again. But some strategic realities indicate he should not.
There are plenty of things on the plus side — just contrast what is currently going on in Washington. The Biden administration reflexively seemed to take every Trump position and reverse it.
And we’re living the disaster.
Energy independence: gone. Wisdom regarding NATO, Ukraine and Russia: nonexistent. International respect for America: quickly fading. Economic growth: crashing. Response to COVID: chaotic and despotic.
Let’s not forget border security and the debacle in Afghanistan or growing perceptions by China and North Korea.
And none of this is abstract and remote. Biden’s likeness is appearing next to price indicators on gas pumps with the phrase “I did that!” Trips to the grocery store are depressing.
As a result, barring election fraud or something unforeseen, Congress currently seems to be the Republicans for the taking this election cycle.
But 2024, politically speaking, is a long way off.
Despite the Biden disaster, Republicans would have to overcome weaponized media — legacy and social — corporate power and the deep state for anyone in their party to win the presidency.
Could Trump pull it off? Good question. He’s the biggest target of them all.
For one thing, he doesn’t have the advantages he had in 2016. At that time he was, in some respects, a stealth candidate. No one — Democrats, Republicans or media — took him seriously.
It wasn’t until about August of 2016 that media realized they had to censor Trump. Until that time they gave him millions of dollars of free publicity by just letting him talk — in their minds his statements were so crazy that they were just allowing him to hang himself.
Then the media realized what Trump was saying resonated with Republicans, independents and what used to be known as Reagan Democrats.
So censorship began, ultimately seeing Trump removed from Twitter while he was a sitting president of the United States.
The argument can be made that Trump is such a lightening rod that he could not again win the presidency. Indeed, Biden’s approval ratings after only a year indicate many people were not voting for Biden but were on a crusade to oppose Trump.
No doubt many would do it again.
And there are characteristics of Trump that hurt him. Nearly every Trump supporter has cringed at things he has said or how he has said it.
He didn’t help himself at Saturday’s rally by purposed vulgarity, even in spite of the growing coarseness of the culture.
Mocking climate change Trump said, “The ocean will rise one hundredth of one percent over the next three hundred f****** years.”
His audience greeted his outburst with laughter, indicating shock and delight.
Surely a sharp media character like Trump knows the repercussions — both within and without his sphere of supporters — of such language in public.
Maybe that’s a signal that he won’t run and is now liberated to say what he wants — even beyond his normally stretched limits.
The problem with examining Trump is he’s many-faceted. President Harry Truman once asked for a one-armed economist because he grew tired of economists saying “but on the other hand.”
So — on the other hand, look at Trump’s mastery of the media.
Queried on how a former actor could be president, Ronald Reagan once asked how someone could be president without being an actor.
Trump is a master of the media, much more than the telegenic Barack Obama or glib Bill Clinton. Only Ukrainian President Voludymry Zelenskyy is superior to them all.
With the Lee Greenwood composition “God Bless the U.S.A,” loudly playing, Trump’s Georgia rally was once again like a rock star appearance with the former president spending the first two and half minutes walking among American flags and passing out red and white baseball caps that read “Make America Great Again” or “Save America.”
Trump still connects with working and middle class people increasingly bulldozed by the laptop coast elites.
Among Christians there had been overall criticism of Trump’s character — the sharp language, the three marriages, the casino operations. Some of that was tempered by the respect he showed the Judeo-Christian ethic while he was president.
So who should Republicans run for president in 2024?
Again, it’s way too early. While 2016 presented a slew of competent Republican candidates, Trump has changed how the GOP will field future contenders.
One name is that of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He is able to boldly articulate many Trump-like policies but in a manner which is measured and is not likely to scare the horses.
And if he becomes a presidential candidate, the Democratic media will throw as much at him as they have Trump. Look at what happened to George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and John McCain when they ran.
An advantage for Republicans is Democrats have a weak bench and thankfully are oblivious to what they could have in Tulsi Gabbard. To date, their strategy seems to be nothing beyond anybody but Bernie.
So Trump is coy. Sort of. And with him, there’s a lot to like, things that still make one cringe, lots of advantages and possibly some serious strategic drawbacks.
But as I said, 2024 is a long way off.
Right now I’m just concerned about how much gas I’ll need this week. And if those school day duck-and-cover drills to avoid nuclear attacks really work.