Sunday, December 4, 2022

Will the Republicans Dare Anchor Themselves to Donald Trump Once Again?

It wasn’t déja vu taking us back to 2015. Last week, Donald J. Trump officially announced his intention of seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, resorting to the same old songbook of lies, exaggerations, and attacks on his opponents.

In that sense, there was no real news or surprise. Rather, it was expected, given the media cackling and speculations among his own people, who were once again laying down the path for this announcement that, to tell the truth, lacked any real political weight in this United States that is already heading in another direction.

But while there’s no doubt that he has captivated a big percentage of his Republican Party—the so-called MAGA Nation—this announcement comes during very different circumstances from 2015 and 2020.

In the first place, Trump was president before and now voters know him. It’s so predictable, it’s easy to guess what his campaign speeches are going to be, wrapped in the rhetoric of hate and narcissism. But in light of the country’s advancement since his failed campaign in 2020, Trump can no longer sell the idea of being a “successful millionaire businessman” who could do wonderful things in the White House. What the country went through was a succession of corruption scandals and investigations—still ongoing—into an individual who, to this day, continues to try to enrich himself economically, through his presidential run. Trump is more gangster than statesman. And now, like a repeat offender, he wants to get back on the scene.

But perhaps the largest difference today, compared to 2015 and 2020, is that his Republican Party—despite having won back the control of the House of Representatives—just suffered a spectacular defeat at all levels in this year’s midterm elections. The “red wave” was actually more like salt in water. It vanished. The Senate remained in Democrats’ hands and they even won governorships, like in Arizona, as well as new seats in the U.S. House.

In other words, the context in which Trump wants to re-impose his empire of racism, which has not stopped rearing its ugly head in this country, is so different that it will be even harder to penetrate the social consciousness, except among his sycophants who are already sharpening their talons and thinking that, perhaps he can make a country that has proven that its greatest success lies in its cultural and demographic diversity, retreat. Now, Trump is reappearing at a time when the United States that this nation aspires to be no longer in need of him.

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On this last note, what’s most important is that extremist candidates supported by Trump lost their races. Voters rejected election deniers who continued to propagate Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was “stolen.” They also rejected extremism, division, and conspiracy theories about “replacement” and an “invasion” at the border.

Despite prognostications that inflation would destroy the Democrats, voters also chose to elect candidates who protect rights like abortion access, and showed—with their selections—that they are worried about the future of our democracy.

What new hatred and lies will impregnate Trumpist rhetoric this time around, when its failure as a political-electoral weapon has now been proven? His strategists must be racking their brains about how to appear before a more conscious electorate, and be prepared to face, with their vote, that aspect of contemporary evil that Trump and his followers represent, not only for this country but also the rest of the world. One also has to be aware of an irrefutable reality: Trump doesn’t come to play clean nor protect democracy. He comes out of personal, not political or ideological, vengeance. He wants power for power’s sake. That is his disturbing nature.

There is absolutely no doubt that the midterm elections were a referendum on Trumpism, and Trumpism did not fare well at all.

In fact, and judging by the reaction in Republican circles to the ex-president’s aspirations, it is evident that Trump has become an anchor—dead weight—for a Republican Party that welcomed him with open arms while he brought them electoral victories. But now the story is very different. He’s only brought losses. And that is it: losses are what no political party will ever accept, especially those who prop up campaigns with their millions of dollars in donations, and invest in candidates who are able to win. Trump has proved himself to be a loser, before his country and before history.

This doesn’t mean he should be underestimated, because even if he isn’t nominated at the end of the day, there are other extremist figures that gained ground without being Trump, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was reelected overwhelmingly, although his state is not indicative of what is going on in the rest of the country. What it is indicative of an internal Republican division is the looming confrontation between DeSantis and Trump in the next few months. In fact, prior to Trump’s announcement, fanatical supporters of the ex-president were seen trampling on campaign posters of the Florida governor. And not to be skipped over, during his announcement, Trump praised only the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, for his “work” at the border.

But even campaign donors and other leaders in the Republican Party want to move on. And they recognize the ballast that is Trump.

At any rate, we cannot lower our guard, as with or without Trump, the seeds of extremism are already sown. They didn’t germinate in 2022, but who knows what can happen in the next two years.

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Maribel Hastings es asesora ejecutiva de America’s Voice y David Torres es asesor de medios en español de America’s Voice.

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