Speculating About Trump’s Future

In a jubilant commentary for this website, Conrad Black announced that Youngkin’s victory in Virginia “paved the way” for a Trump presidential win in 2024:

Republican NeverTrumpers and non-Trumpers claimed to see in Youngkin the possibility of a non-Trump Republican returned to the White House. This was Trumpism without Trump, which has always been a fraud unless Trump does not seek the nomination. But the facts are that over 80 percent of Youngkin’s supporters are also Trump supporters and if primary elections were held in the Republican Party now, Trump would win all of them.

Any observer of this month’s election result in Virginia needn’t be a Trump enthusiast to notice that Black is mostly right. The National Review-NeverTrumpers, led by their editor, conjured up a “bad night for Trump” in Virginia, where Glenn Youngkin won the governorship while carefully staying away from Trump. But this account is open to question. Although the triumphant Youngkin did not invite Trump to campaign for him in a state that the former president lost by 10 points last year, he also didn’t repudiate his endorsement. Further, while campaigning in southwestern Virginia and in Richmond suburbs where Trump did well last year, Youngkin narrowed his distance rhetorically from someone who remains by far the most popular Republican presidential candidate. 

Rich Lowry makes much of the fact that Youngkin won in Southside and southwestern Virginia by higher totals than Trump. Supposedly this proves Youngkin “needed to get them out [the MAGA voters] and did, without Trump campaigning for him and barely mentioning his name.” But Youngkin won in those areas as the beneficiary of Trump’s exuberant recommendation and after eight months of a disastrous Democratic administration. One can’t omit from consideration that Trump’s successor has gone down to a 38 percent approval rating and his vice president to an even more dismal 28 percent.

Trump did not have these factors working in his favor when he won in areas that Youngkin won by more. According to polls taken while the Virginia election was still going on, Trump increased his popularity among Virginia voters since last year by only a few percentage points. Meanwhile, Biden has gone from majority support to becoming an object of contempt.  Virginia voters on Election Day were sending an emphatic message of disapproval to Washington. In areas where Trump won, the voters were even more energized than before to vote against the Democrats.

Lowry is also not being credible when he tells us, “Trump’s magic was to a large extent based on running against a very unpopular candidate and in a race where he could lean on the Electoral College.” As Patrick Basham shows in a detailed article for ChroniclesBiden’s Inexplicable Victory,” Trump picked up 12.1 million more votes in 2020 than he garnered against Hillary Clinton. According to Basham, so many statistical improbabilities characterized the electoral results, e.g., looking at where Trump won overwhelmingly in places that every presidential winner captured for many decades before, that we are justified in questioning last year’s official figures.

As far as I can determine, Trump did not lose support as a result of the Virginia contest but may also not have gained much because of it. His popularity as a Republican presidential contender for 2024 has hovered around 80 percent, which may have been where he was before Youngkin’s victory. Much will depend on what he does going forward. His decision to launch his own social media platform, after high tech magnates threw him off their platforms to destroy him politically, was an excellent idea.

But how this venture turns out will depend on how Trump develops it. He should not use his new media opportunity to voice his unending complaints about election fraud in 2020. That fraud may well have occurred, but prospective listeners may not want to listen to him rehash old laments. Others should state his case with appropriate documentation at opportune times. Trump or Jason Miller, who is heading the project, also should not fill his platform with daily celebrities borrowed from Fox News or other Republican media outlets. This is not the best way to build up one’s discussions. Trump and Miller should be looking for new voices and faces to represent their populist message.

Sixty percent of Republicans already express eagerness to avail themselves of the Trump media. It is up to Trump to give these devotees exactly what he promised, when he claimed to be “fighting cancel culture, defending free speech, challenging social media, and creating a marketplace of ideas.” This move into high tech may be more significant for Trump’s political future than the possible effects of the Virginia election. Of course, whatever happens with the new platform will have no effect on NeverTrumpers. They will go on fuming over someone whom they are paid to denounce, no matter what the future may bring him.

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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