Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, former President Donald Trump emerged from the depths of desperation last week.
The GOP is whatever Trump says it is. Soon, opposition to President Biden will be all Trump, all of the time. Republican congressional leaders and potential presidential candidates will likely be consigned to the back pages of newspapers and the tail end of cable TV shows. More than likely, Trump will soak up all the media oxygen while other Republicans gasp for air.
The glow of the bright national spotlight should warm the heart of the former president. More people will pay attention to him, which is the main motivation behind his behavior while in exile.
He will now have more opportunities to complain about the last election and rip his political enemies, especially Republicans who don’t indulge his whimsical fantasies about his defeat in 2020. So much for party unity.
The second coming of Trump is good for him. The real question is whether his reentry into polite society is good for the GOP. The answer is no.
Recent events have not been kind to the former president. His absence has not made hearts grow fonder of him. More than four months since the end of his presidency, he remains unpopular, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
On his watch, 400,000 Americans lost their lives during the deadly pandemic and the nation suffered historic job losses, all of which could have been prevented if he had not downplayed the severity of the coronavirus crisis.
Prosecutors in New York have started a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization. Recently, the Manhattan district attorney has brought two top financial officers with the Trump Organization in front of a grand jury to testify. If there are indictments and trials, a media frenzy will follow.
Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reports that Trump harbors fantasies about returning to the White House in August. He continued to make unfounded claims about the legitimacy of Biden’s victory during his speech to the Tar Heel State Republicans.
Social media was a major asset for Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign but now it has turned against him. Last week he shut down his own blog after it made little dent in the ionosphere. Facebook announced that its ban against him would continue through 2022.
The contrast between Trump and Biden is as clear as night and day. Trump represents the dark side of American politics, while the new president represents the light of hope and promise. The former president represents conflict while the new president stands for compassion.
While the 46th president looks to the future, the 45th is focused on the past. Biden pushes for serious policy proposals like his American Rescue Plan and Build Back Better agenda that will move the nation forward, while Trump looks in the rear-view mirror to indulge his many personal political grudges.
The compelling contrast between the old and new becomes more important the closer we get to next year’s midterm elections. If the damage from the pandemic continues to decline and the economy keeps improving, Democrats will do well in 2022. The contrast between Biden’s success and Trump’s failure will be a powerful message for Democrats in their quest to maintain or even increase their hold on both houses of Congress.
We will have an early test of the midterm battle between Biden and Trump this November in Virginia. Trump has endorsed the GOP gubernatorial nominee, Glenn Youngkin who – like his sponsor – is a wealthy businessman without political experience. Tuesday night after winning the nomination the Democratic standard bearer, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe made it crystal clear that he will tie his opponent tight with the former president. In his victory speech, he said, “I would pay for the fuel to get Donald Trump here”.
If the Democrat succeeds in making this a referendum on the two presidents, the Republican nominee in Virginia will be in a tough spot since Trump lost the state to the president by 10 percentage points last year.
Rank-and-file Republicans still adore Trump, but some in the GOP privately worry that his increased visibility could cost the party politically next November.
But the Republicans who believe Trump is a political deadweight are afraid to speak out against him because of his support among party grassroots activists. Their silence is not golden because it might cost them a great prize, which is control of Congress after the midterms.
The Republican Party has mortgaged its political future to the bad boy of American politics, which will make it more difficult for the GOP to evict Democrats from Congress in 2022 or Biden from the White House in 2024.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.