With the turn of the calendar to 2022, Republicans are not only looking to the 2022 midterm elections but to the prospect of Donald Trump running in 2024. Trump is hugely popular with the party’s base and that popularity freezes the plans of other possible candidates for the 2024 nomination. Trump’s hold on that nomination is brittle, however, because of his age. On election day in 2024 Donald Trump will be 78 years old. That is one year older than Ronald Reagan’s age when he left office in 1988.
Looking at the 2024 contest from the other side of the race, there is no reason to expect that Joe Biden will be nominated. He has been in office for less than one year, and only diehard Democrats believe that he is not suffering from incapacitating mental deficits. The only question is which foreign adversary will take advantage of his weakness: China, Russia or Iran. So, the most likely scenario is for Biden’s resignation in 2022 or early 2023.
Trump may be popular now, but once the voters have been shocked by the disaster of one septuagenarian president why would they roll the dice on a 78-year-old Donald Trump holding office to age 82? It’s a very bad bet, especially when there are younger, capable Republicans available. Ron DeSantis is at the top of the list of strong candidates for the presidency, but by 2023 we should have other governors and several senators eager to reach for the nomination.
I believe the above makes a strong case that it would be unwise for Donald Trump to run for the presidency in 2024. That presents the big question: how to persuade Trump to play the role of “kingmaker” in late 2022 and step back from his own candidacy?
I can think of two arguments, one that has a biblical theme and one based on the movie Patton. In Deuteronomy it was written that when the Jewish people were on the verge of entering the Promised Land (Israel), Moses was only allowed to view it from Mount Nebo and died before his people entered it. Why? One interpretation is that God was punishing him for the sin of pride when he took the credit from God for finding water for his people when they desperately needed it while wandering in the desert.
The comparison to Moses would be instructive for Trump, if he were to realize that it’s not always about him. His egocentricity should not prevent him from seeing the larger issues involved in his political rise and fall. Trump’s political victory in 2016 and loss in 2020 justifies a tragic view of history. “You can’t always get what you want” to borrow a phrase from the song. His four years as President were remarkable. He accomplished so much that he could rightfully claim that he kept his campaign promises — unlike most recent presidents. Trump delivered on deregulation, taxes, economic policies, relations with America’s allies and so much more.
Imagine his frustration when he increased his vote total over 2016 by eight million votes only to lose five battleground states — all of which had suspicious ballot counting procedures. The 2020 election was successfully “rigged” as Mollie Hemingway documents so well in her book of that name because Trump’s campaign was one step behind the Democrats when they rewrote the election laws with collusive lawsuits and regulatory actions months before the election. The problem was aggravated when courts around the country, even the U.S. Supreme Court, refused to hear challenges to the unconstitutional changes both before and after the election, much less hold hearings for all the witnesses who could testify as to the election count “irregularities.”
Donald Trump has shown the way for the Republican Party to end its “capture” by corporate elitists and Washington insiders. His America First policies are as threatening to their power as Reaganism was to the party poobahs in 1980, if not more so. The Republican Party’s majority for the next few decades could be built on a base of blue-collar voters and Hispanic and Black voters, if the Anti-Trump faction of the party were to be pushed to the sidelines.
Putting it differently, Trumpism could be larger than Donald Trump if he would let it. Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida, Congressman Jim Jordan in Ohio and others are ready to lead the party into the Promised Land of winning elections as frequently as a golden age from 1868 to 1916 when Grover Cleveland was the only Democrat to win the presidency.
If the analogy to Moses is not sufficient to persuade Donald Trump to throw his support behind candidates to carry on his legacy, he might find appealing a comparison to General George S. Patton. Early in the movie Patton an aide pricked the great general’s elation from a victory over the German Afrika Korps when he told him that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was temporarily in Germany and not in North Africa. The aide softened the blow to Patton’s ego when he pointed out that Patton had defeated Rommel’s war plan and thus demonstrated that he was the superior strategist.
The inverse of this could be true in 2024, if Donald Trump would lead the way for “Trumpism” to prevail over his foes both within the Republican Party and among the socialist leftists in control of the Democrat Party. His brand of patriotic populism could be the decisive difference in bringing America back from the destructive anti-freedom and even anti-American policies of the Democrats.
Trump in 2016-20 had the abrasiveness one would expect from a man from working-class Queens who pushed past the snobs of Manhattan to become a brand name in real estate development in New York City. A successful Republican candidate in 2024 would be someone carrying the Trump banner without the annoying tweets.
Donald Trump’s greatest legacy would be to transform the substance of Republican Party politics so successfully that it became a permanent and productive majority for several decades. All he must do is sacrifice some of his ego to a greater cause, while claiming the credit for showing the way into a new promised land of an America restored to its place as the “shining city on the hill” to borrow from Ronald Reagan. He could be the most transformational one-term president in American history. It’s his choice.
Patrick J. Gibbs | Columnist
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