Who Is in the Best Position to Restore American Greatness in 2024?

Ever since Donald Trump once again announced his candidacy for president there has been a chorus of voices from former supporters, many of whom respectfully acknowledge his accomplishments, but who now suggest Trump is too flawed to win another election, even against as weak a candidate as Joe Biden. 

Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, argues that Trump “lacks the qualities essential to achieving the kind of unity and broad election victory in 2024 so necessary if we are to right our listing republic.” His own vice president, Mike Pence, even though he acknowledges that the American people know Trump “is as good as his word,” believes that there are “better choices” for the party in 2024. Salena Zito, the reporter who probably understands the appeal of Trump better than any other analyst, now contends “the conservative populist movement is moving beyond Trump.”

Just a few days after Trump became a declared candidate, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the former president was the target of a special counsel’s investigation into possible crimes in connection with his possession of purportedly classified documents at his residence in Mar-a-Lago, and in connection with his communications at the time of the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. 

These are, you’ll forgive the expression, trumped-up charges that likely will eventually fail. 

Indeed, since Trump took possession of the documents in question, he had the plenary authority to declassify them, and since anyone who reads his remarks on January 6 will learn that he expressly cautioned his supporters to act peacefully, it will not be easy to sustain a conviction for insurrectionary activity. An individual guilty of insurrection is barred by law from running for public office, so one could reasonably infer that the reason for the special counsel is to neutralize a feared opponent from running against Biden.

What do Trump’s enemies fear, and could this be an indication that Trump may still be the best candidate for the Republicans in 2024? 

Those of us who supported Trump in 2016 did so for a variety of reasons, but it is undeniable that he actually performed as we had hoped, and that objective historians will credit him with extraordinary success in his first term—he transformed the Supreme Court by the addition of three justices committed to interpreting the Constitution according to its original understanding; he succeeded in reducing unemployment for all Americans, particularly minorities; he made the country energy independent; he reduced the flow of illegal immigration; he eased the regulatory and tax burden on American businesses; he renegotiated trade agreements on a favorable basis; and he avoided additional military entanglements. These were all goals traditional conservatives had advocated for years, accomplished by Trump. 

But the Biden Administration and its fellow travelers in Congress fear something different.

Donald Trump is the only prominent Republican who has acknowledged the extraordinary level of corruption in the United States, and it is the beneficiaries of that corruption who may fear him the most. 

Corruption—the turning of the government from a servant of the people to a kleptocracy involving a favored class of officials, bureaucrats and cronies—was what our framers feared most, and what they believed to be the too frequent and perhaps unavoidable fate of republics. The original constitutional structure, one where power checked power, and where no one branch of government could run amok unchallenged by the others, has all but disappeared in the last generation as real power in our government has come to rest in the federal administrative agencies, and in the executive branch agencies, in particular. Trump understood this, and his railing against the “deep state” was his way of suggesting that the federal Leviathan was now running things for its own benefit rather than for the benefit of the people.

As we have learned from works like those of Peter Schweizer, powerful American politicians such as the Clintons, Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, and many others are masters at the art of growing rich using their connections and political influence. Small wonder, then, that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the ultimate source of the infamous Steele dossier, which resulted in the first independent counsel to investigate President Trump; that Joe Biden’s Justice Department now torments Trump; and that Mitch McConnell denied essential campaign funds to Trump-endorsed candidates for the Senate. 

As a man of independent wealth, Trump is uniquely positioned to resist corruption, and rather than being the criminal and grifter his opponents would like us to believe him to be, he is a genuine patriot who loves his country and genuinely seeks to tame a federal government which has become the framers’ nightmare. Those who attend his rallies instinctively understand that and see in him a leader capable of keeping his campaign promises and returning the presidency to a role of serving and not betraying the American people.

There are those who say that Trump’s time has passed, and that his ability through unrestrained and boorish behavior to alienate Americans such as single women and suburban voters renders him unelectable—and it remains true that powerful forces in the media, in the academy, and in many of the state governments are arrayed against him. Nevertheless, Trump does learn from his mistakes, and his lately more subdued tone, his real record of accomplishment, and his innate political talent still make him the most formidable Republican contender.

His ongoing persecution by corrupt state and federal officials can actually be turned into a powerful endorsement through carefully crafted anti-corruption messaging. He will have to convince his fellow Republicans through the primary campaign, but he has done it before, and he still represents the best chance we have to reclaim a government committed to the restoration of the rule of law and the sovereignty of the American people.

About Stephen B. Presser

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, and the author of “Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law” (West Academic Publishers, 2017). In the academic year 2018-2019, Professor Presser is a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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