The Commercial Appeal
Are Republicans simply in denial over Trump?
In 2020, former President Donald Trump was involuntarily inducted into the least envied of all former presidents’ clubs.
Trump is one of nine U.S. presidents to seek and fail to get a second term. Twenty-one Presidents won election to a second term. Others didn’t seek a second term for various reasons, including death.
The other eight members of the club are John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Franklin Pierce, Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.
You can’t judge Trump’s presidency or his potential to continue to lead the GOP solely by his membership in that least envied of all political clubs. For that, you must examine other evidence.
An upswing squandered
Trump won the presidency at the end of the socalled “Great Recession” after modest growth had returned and the largest deficit in history to that point, $1.4 trillion under President Barack Obama, had dropped to $700 billion, still outrageous but trending in the right direction. The country had practically forgotten the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that dominated the eight years of the George W. Bush administration and still plagued the eight years of the Obama administration. Trump inherited and reined over a period of relative peace and prosperity. His reelection jeopardy was two-fold.
The first was self-imposed. Trump made a lot of domestic enemies in high and low places with the way he conducted political business. He constantly and publicly fought with people almost indiscriminately, in both parties, in business, in the media, in the street, berating and punishing anyone who crossed him and many who didn’t.
Trump’s self-imposed problem was joined by the challenge to manage a deadly coronavirus pandemic in a way that would save the most lives without wrecking the economy, a challenge that presented itself nine months before the election. Trump can’t be blamed for COVID-19 or for all of the government decisions that made it worse, but the buck stops with the president, especially in an election year.
Will Republicans want Trump again?
Four months after the election, Republicans are still circling the wagons around Trump. Most House and Senate Republicans voted to protect him from impeachment charges that he incited the Jan. 6 riot and “insurrection” at the Capitol. State Republican parties in Louisiana, North Carolina,, Pennsylvania, Alaska and Nebraska censured their U.S. senators who voted to convict Trump of the impeachment charges.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina insisted after the Senate vote that the path to future Republican victories is “Trump plus.”
The next two election cycles should reveal whether Graham is right – that the newest inductee into the infamous club, who lost the entire government to Democrats, will continue to lead the GOP. Democrats insist they hope Graham is right, as do Independents and third party candidates eager to challenge both parties in the next two election cycles.
More likely, most Republicans are simply stuck in the first stage of grief – denial — but will advance to bargaining by the midterm elections and will be ready for acceptance and eager to put Trump in the rear view mirror well before the next presidential election.
Ralph Bristol is a retired conservative broadcaster living in Nashville.