Many right-wingers prefer their former leader to democracy.
The usual routine of past presidents is to blend in, graciously refuse to criticize their successor, and create a new library. But Donald Trump is not about decor, friendliness or books. In meetings, interviews or impromptu speeches, for example at wedding ceremonies in Mar-a-Lago, his stronghold in Florida, Mr. Trump has lambasted President Joe Biden, the media and the handful of Republicans who dared to acknowledge his electoral defeat in 2020. He furthermore repeatedly hinted at the possibility of a comeback with a bang. In 2022, this will seem increasingly inevitable.
The usual routine of past presidents is to blend in, graciously refuse to criticize their successor, and create a new library. But Donald Trump is not about decor, friendliness or books. In meetings, interviews or impromptu speeches, for example at wedding ceremonies in Mar-a-Lago, his stronghold in Florida, Mr. Trump has lambasted President Joe Biden, the media and the handful of Republicans who dared to acknowledge his electoral defeat in 2020. He furthermore repeatedly hinted at the possibility of a comeback with a bang. In 2022, this will seem increasingly inevitable. It already seems that only a health crisis can prevent Mr. Trump from accessing a second term as president, which he is ardently eyeing. Most Republican voters want him back. He’s racked up over $100 million just by hinting he will. His followers, like Senator Lindsey Graham, encouraged him to maintain a stranglehold on the Republican Party from the first day he left office. And Mr. Trump’s only serious opponents of the candidacy, like Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Mike Pompeo, his ex-secretary of state, are his carbon copies. Everything therefore indicates that the Republicans will prefer the original. Mr. Trump further appears to have already warned politicians of his return, via his allegations that he was robbed of his victory over Mr. Biden by a corrupt establishment. Moreover, nearly 80% of Republican voters admit to believing in this lie. This is why his party’s lawmakers have frustrated efforts to conduct a serious investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising on Capitol Hill. And it’s also why the handful of Republicans who resisted it, like Rep. Liz Cheney, were pilloried. Meanwhile, at every level of power, Republican representatives and candidates are sounding the alarm over “election integrity”, implying that the Democrats cannot legitimately win, and that special measures are therefore necessary simply to prevent them from winning. Thus, no less than 18 state legislatures controlled by the Republicans have passed electoral laws that will make it more difficult to vote; several of these appear to target African Americans and other traditionally Democratic minorities. Worse, several of these “trumpified” bodies have also taken control of the holding of the next elections in their state. This is all the more concerning in light of Mr. Trump’s efforts to steal the election in 2020. Had either of these state officials caved, the situation would have been even more chaotic. and the former president might have succeeded in his heist. However, these representatives are now rare. Indeed, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia whom Mr. Trump had demanded to “find 11,780 votes”, could not resume his role in the defense of democracy, for example. His cabinet is now stripped of all power in this matter. The Republican primaries for Congress, which are expected to take place in the first half of 2022, will indicate how much the party has succumbed to this extremism. Of the 212 Republican members of the House, 10 had voted to impeach Mr. Trump following the insurgency in the capital, two of whom have already announced their intention to step down in the next election. The other eight, including Ms. Cheney, will face tough opponents backed by Mr. Trump. If the majority of them lose the election, as they should, Mr. Trump’s stranglehold on his party will be that much stronger, and more of its members will adopt the strategy of electoral skepticism. And if they win, the pro-Trumps will cry foul, which could have practically the same effect… The November 2022 mid-term elections will be even more instructive. Indeed, they will represent the first opportunity for Trump’s Republicans to put their conspiratorial views to voters. The prominent role played by the former president in their campaign will encourage them to do so. The big question, then, is whether enough centre-right voters will find these allegations incongruous enough to defeat this strategy. If so, it would be a massive blow to Mr. Trump’s prospects of regaining the presidency. But there is little reason to believe it. Few of the 75 million voters who voted for Mr. Trump in 2020 seem troubled by his election denialism or the violence perpetrated on Capitol Hill. Granted, they don’t share his totalitarian instincts, but just don’t seem to take them seriously. America is likely to regret it bitterly. James Astill, Washington Bureau Chief, The Economist