Image Courtesy of Politico
By Justin Lamoureux
It doesn’t look good for President Trump. With his legal pathways to contesting the election results quickly narrowing, and prospects of a game-changing recount becoming even more bleak, the likelihood that he will reverse the outcome of this election is exceedingly slim. Speculation has ensued regarding a possible “hail mary” plan, in which Trump and Republicans attempt to undermine the electoral college, but a series of legal roadblocks and opposition from prominent lawmakers would most likely undermine this strategy before it gained any significant traction. With his appeals nearly exhausted, it has become clear that President Trump’s days in the Oval Office are numbered.
But that doesn’t mean his political career is over. In fact, sources close to Trump have alleged that he is already planning for another presidential campaign in 2024. Historically, presidents who have failed to win re-election have exited the political stage altogether; however, this political climate is anything but typical, and Donald Trump is no average commander-in-chief. With that being said, a political comeback of sorts is not out of the question by any measure or logic.
Think about it: In the last four years, President Trump has become the only significant face of the Republican Party. His ability to mobilize both the party’s base and political establishment exceeds any conventional norm; there is also no indication that he will lose support within the Republican Party in the foreseeable future. With all that in mind, it is perfectly conceivable that Trump enters the 2024 Republican primary as the clear frontrunner for his party’s nomination. His monopoly on popular support could easily compel otherwise viable candidates, such as Senator Marco Rubio or former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, to step aside.
More importantly, however, the possibility of another Trump presidential run sheds light on a far broader issue: the 45th President’s hold on the Republican Party itself. Despite a multitude of scandals and highly controversial decisions, Trump has retained overwhelming support among Republican voters. He received over 70 million votes nationwide, substantially higher than his 2016 total, and boasts a formidable Twitter following of 88 million. Trump may have lost this election, but these numbers send a clear message: He is not going anywhere. His presidency might be coming to a close, but his influence over conservative politics is here to stay.
Two months remain before Trump’s departure from Pennsylvania Avenue, but the commander-in-chief has already taken measures to help retain his advantage over the party’s cash haul. Within days of his election loss, Trump organized a political action committee; for less politically-inclined readers, these are organizations that are founded to help raise money to elect (or defeat) select candidates. In this case, Trump’s committee (or “PAC,” as these are commonly called) is known as “Great America.” This PAC can accept individual donations of up to $5,000 per year from an unlimited number of people. They could also accept donations from similar committees.
The “Great America” PAC gives Trump leeway to fund candidates in an unlimited capacity, helping them cover travel, polling, and consultants. On a broader scale, however, this could provide him with an outlet to continue shaping the Republican Party in his own image, as he has been doing over the last four years.
It goes without saying that right-wing media has been very kind to Trump. Nevertheless, many have floated the idea that he plans to construct his own media empire upon leaving office. It has been suggested that President Trump started planning this during his first campaign in 2016; however, sources close to the president have alleged that his intentions were bolstered by a recent feud with FOX News, which had long been the commander-in-chief’s network of choice.
Given Trump’s immense following among right-wing media viewers, there is a real possibility that his own media empire could decimate the well-established FOX Network. What’s more, U.S. election analysts have attested that for Trump’s media venture to succeed, he would only need to earn the support of a handful of people from his pool of voters. But assuming his network transmits the same emotion-based rhetoric that he did on the campaign trail, and as commander-in-chief, he could potentially accumulate a much higher rate of viewership.
Of course, there is one factor that could pose a legitimate threat to Trump’s ambitions: criminal charges. Once he leaves office, he will lose the constitutional protection (from prosecution) afforded to presidents. Longstanding questions concerning the president’s tax history, along with the growing list of cabinet members who now face imprisonment, lead many to believe that Trump will also be prosecuted. His concerns are exacerbated by the fact that several prosecutors in New York State, where Trump claimed residency until 2019, have encouraged greater scrutiny of the president’s history.
This election may not have produced the most favorable results for Trump, but his future as a political stalwart remains bright. Not only does he continue to benefit from the unwavering support of his base, as demonstrated by closer than expected results in a number of states, but he also continues to dominate the monetary battle for control over the party. He has the resources needed to effectively change the dynamics of conservative media, shaping this element of publicity to fit his own ideas. These key factors put Trump in an optimal position to remain highly influential for years to come.