Are we really doing this again?
On Tuesday, Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring for 2024. The announcement came one day after he defied the House Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena for testimony about the U.S. Capitol insurrection his supporters attempted.
Trump’s announcement Tuesday didn't have a backlit entrance or a bizarre descent on an escalator. Instead, it was perhaps, to borrow a Trump phrase, the most "low energy" speech of his career. Minute after minute, he droned on. "This is something I don't need," he admitted at one point, "and a lot of you people don’t need, either." After nearly 40 minutes, perhaps sensing how bored his audience was, he urged them to sit down. Even Fox News cut away. "We’re going back to President Trump," said host Laura Ingraham, "when news warrants."
"This is something I don't need," Trump admitted at one point, "and a lot of you people don’t need, either."
It wasn't just Trump's tired delivery that made the speech so boring. It was the fact that there was nothing new: no real policies to fight inflation, no long-awaited pivot to the center. "Cheating" in the 2020 election, the "invasion" at the border, Hillary Clinton's emails, "globalists" — all the old hits were played, and most of the dog whistles were blown.
Trump's commitment to staying the course is mildly surprising only because the GOP’s midterm disappointments mean many in the party have the knives out for him. Many of Trump’s favorites — Kari Lake, who ran for governor in Arizona; Mehmet Oz, who ran for the Senate in Pennsylvania — lost. And even many of those who won — such as J.D. Vance in Ohio — underperformed. Independents recoiled from Trumpian hatreds and election denialism. From cable news to Capitol Hill, anti-Trump Republicans are becoming more vocal — though many, tellingly, still hide behind anonymous quotes. And in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s opponents may have the candidate to rally around that they never had in 2016.
But it’s no surprise Trump is trotting out the same old trash. The core of his appeal, after all, includes a refusal to admit failure. As Trump said before Tuesday’s results came in: “I think if they win, I should get all the credit. If they lose, I should not be blamed at all.”
Besides, who’s to say Trumpism is a loser in the Republican Party? The latest Politico/Morning Consult poll still gives him a 14-point lead over DeSantis. GOP donors, the Murdoch empire and many prominent Republicans may think Trump is a weight around the party’s neck. But the same was true in 2016. Remember, Trump endorsed Lake, Vance and others, but it was Republican voters who chose them in the primaries. Will those voters discover a love for electability in 2024? Or will a majority side with Trump, just as they have done for the past six years?
We’ve already had four years of flagrant profiteering, outright buffoonery and contemptuous prejudice.
Whatever the answers to those questions, the whole exercise is exhausting. We’ve already had four years of flagrant profiteering, outright buffoonery and contemptuous prejudice, culminating in the attempted overthrow of American democracy. Now we have to live at least a year with the specter of another Trump term, one that would likely make his first one look like a picnic. It’s as if the cancer that you hoped was in remission announced on national television that it’s back.
But the fight isn’t over, weary though we may be. Though Democrats beat expectations last week, Republicans still won the House popular vote. And if there’s one figure who has outperformed Trumpism, it’s Trump himself.
The day after Trump's inauguration, millions of Americans took to the streets to march in protest. That sort of day-in, day-out vigilance helped preserve democracy during Trump's presidency. As he seeks to return to the White House, we'll need that same diligence again — as tiring as it may be to summon. We have no other choice.