So he’s back, and it didn’t take long, did it? Donald Trump really likes attention, don’t you think? Even if he didn’t believe he’d have a chance of winning in 2024 he’d still run just to get the publicity. Indeed some people say that’s what he was calculating in 2015-16, and why he was so shocked at actually beating Hillary Clinton – but that’s history. The future for American politics is a big bombastic geezer with ridiculous tangerine hair and dangerous intent. Trump isn’t going to go quietly because he doesn’t even know how to.
The further bad news is that he’s not going to be starting his new party. “Fake news”, he calls it, though there was enough inspired speculation about a Trump-inspired Maga movement or “Patriot party” to suggest it had some base in reality (and few reported it as anything like fact). The best hope of seeing Trump consigned to oblivion would have been to see him try and build a national organisation from scratch, having to fight state contests, and struggling to extend its appeal beyond its substantial, but minority, base. But, as he would say, he’s smarter than that and he’s told us it would merely split the right-wing vote. The CPAC conference is useful for something, then.
And the better news? Well, it looks like Trump might be running again. In reality, he’s about the worst candidate the Republicans could be lumbered with. He is a proven (and very sore) loser, who actually lost the popular vote twice, as well as the electoral college last time round. He alienates more people than he attracts, and he scares the hell out of the rest. The events after the election on 3 November, and especially the insurrection on 6 January, merely confirmed the worst fears of moderate Republicans and non-aligned voters. So did his complacent, unscientific, negligent response to the Covid crisis, as if it was a nasty report on CNN rather than a deadly pandemic. He had his successes, but he didn’t make America great again.
Yet there is a residual risk that, as in 2016, he could win, under favourable circumstances – the failure of the Biden administration on the economy, to offer a potent example. It’s a frightening possibility, and fear is a great motivator. That sheer fear of what Trump would do to democracy and civil rights (including a renewed campaign of voter suppression) is why the Democrats will be galvanised as never before to resist him. After all, that same fear of Trump meant the Democrats were forced to get their act together last time, with no messing about with Bernie Sanders. It is why brilliant organisers such as Stacey Abrams got the registered voters on the rolls and got their support out, and in such numbers, they were indeed able to flip places such as Georgia.
As they approach the 2022 mid-terms, the Democrats know how important they are to maintaining control of Congress – but also how they will affect Trump’s calculation about 2024. If the Republicans do well, it will embolden Trump and add to the momentum that will take him into the 2024 contest, and the possibility of the ultimate catastrophe of a Trump comeback. He will be vengeful, obviously, and he will reverse whatever achievements the Biden administration has to its name.
Next time though, he will also move further to secure permanent partisan Republican advantages through manipulating the franchise and undermining the constitution, claiming a popular mandate to do so. Trump will make sure his party can steal every future election for the White House. It is such a horror that the Democrats will be shocked into campaigning and voting like their lives depended on it, as Michelle Obama has rightly warned them. Trump 2 is a sequel you don’t want to see.