How Does Trump Figure Into the Republican Party’s Future?

Written by on 01/29/2021

According to Morning Consult polling data, 42 percent of Republicans would vote for former President Trump in the 2024 Republican primaries. The next most competitive candidate is former Vice President Mike Pence at 16 percent. From there, Donald Trump, Jr. and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are tied at 6 percent. The data are clear, if Trump wants another go at it, the nomination may be his. This is good for Trump, of course. But it may not be the most effective way for Republicans to build on Trump’s success.

This is no takedown of Donald Trump. Trump taught Republicans the most useful lesson they could have learned to remain competitive: fight in the culture, and punch back, figuratively, when the opposition maligns your character. That’s massive. The days of milquetoast, turn-the-other-cheek Republicans are probably over with. The same is true about Republicans who focus on policy while letting leftists run roughshod over American cultural values and beliefs. After all, there will be nothing for conservative policy to conserve if enough Americans come to believe that the country and its institutions were founded by evil people to enshrine oppression.

The problem for Trump is that he has an orderly part of him and a chaotic part of him. He has to have both feet in order or both feet in chaos. He can’t seem to reasonably straddle the line. This usually results in Trump undermining his own victories shortly after winning them, which is only exacerbated by dishonest media coverage and malicious opponents.

So, here’s the situation.

Republicans like Trump very much. He fought in the culture, like no other major Republican. He stood for something dramatically more important than merely policy, though his policy was mostly excellent. Republicans are probably afraid that moving on from Trump personally would leave them back where they started, weak and uncompetitive. Well, that may be, in part, what they need to do. But that’s not how Trump would have to leave them.

To run Trump in 2024 might be to continue taking steps forward followed by multiple steps backward. Democrats think Trump is eminently beatable, which isn’t entirely unreasonable. And if Trump were to start a third party and run a perfectly mirror-image candidate in his stead, he probably splits the GOP down the middle, with half personally loyal to Trump and half to the party and its future. The electoral result would probably look like the Georgia runoffs, in which the most loyal elements of Trump’s base (partly mislead, partly vindictive) effectively ceded power to Democrats to punish what they believed were traitorous, weak-kneed Republicans who didn’t have Trump’s back.

The problem is that it shouldn’t be about Trump, personally. It’s always been a matter of what Trump could do for party and country.

So, here’s a workable strategy.

Republicans take the absolute best of Trump: his fearless willingness to dive into the cultural conflicts. Like Trump, future Republican candidates maintain their support for law enforcement; their conviction that the American founding philosophy is inherently good; and their belief in standing during the anthem before a flag that symbolizes freedom and the blood paid for it. They battle relentlessly without backing down in the face of pressure. American values would be the focus of the party, as they were under Trump. The difference would be the preclusion of the chaotic, self-destructive parts of Trump’s personality from undermining the best of his own agenda.

If the Republican Party can transition from Trump properly, then Trump isn’t the end of a foregone era. He would be the father of a new breed of Republican – a conservative who stands for his or her country’s freedoms and values against domestic opponents, refuses to back down from bullies across the aisle and in the media, and has the discipline not to sacrifice the future for the present. Trump could be the catalyst for a highly competitive GOP down the line, if we don’t mistake the rough draft for the final product. He would throw his influence behind Republicans. His focus would be defeating his Democratic opponents, not weakening his Republican defectors with primary challenges.

Toppling an incumbent president will be tough. Republicans could put up a competitive candidate who, at the least, would lay the groundwork for a successful future. But this requires Trump to sacrifice for his party and for his party to let him do it.

If you liked what Trump stood for in terms of policy and cultural values, and you want to make that happen again, then you build upon the orderly part of Trump while letting the chaotic part that undermined the victories burn off. Trump has a considerable role to play in the future of the Republican Party. The question is whether it will be productive enough to defeat Democratic governance.

Trump should be involved in upcoming elections. But he should consider a different role. That might make his party more competitive and his influence more strongly felt.

(Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Heroes Media Group

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