Donald Trump recently exited the confines of Mar-a-Lago, following a familiar path traveled by many snowbirds: the former president relocated for the summer to his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey.
From a distance, it's easy to imagine Trump surrounded by a small army of sycophantic former White House aides, following a few steps behind him, jotting down his directives as he barks assorted orders.
The truth, however, appears to be far more pitiful. The New York Times reports that the former president slips into Manhattan to work out of Trump Tower at least once a week, but "the place isn't as he left it."
Many of his longtime employees are gone. So are most of the family members who once worked there with him and some of the fixtures of the place, like his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen, who have since turned on him. Mr. Trump works there, mostly alone, with two assistants and a few body men. His political operation has also dwindled to a ragtag team of former advisers who are still on his payroll, reminiscent of the bare-bones cast of characters that helped lift a political neophyte to his unlikely victory in 2016. Most of them go days or weeks without interacting with Mr. Trump in person.
The article added that some Trump associates joke that "the most senior adviser to the former leader of the free world is Christina Bobb, a correspondent with the far-right, eternally pro-Trump One America News Network, whom he consults regularly for information about the Arizona election audit."
In other words, Team Trump is noticeably short on team members.
It's an open question as to why the former president is isolated. Indeed, after raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the wake of his defeat, Trump should have the resources necessary to assemble an impressive crew. At least for now, that hasn't happened.
But of greater interest is the asymmetry between the Republican's paltry operation and the potency of his political reach within his party.
On the one hand we see a former president, who had to shut down his blog because so few people were reading it, standing "mostly alone," overseeing a "ragtag" political operation. He's unpopular; he's facing multiple investigations; and he's been reduced to muttering absurdities about being "reinstated" to power based on bonkers conspiracy theories and an ignorance about American civics. The phrase "how the mighty have fallen" keeps coming to mind.
On the other hand, we see that same former president leading a major political party, wielding considerable power over the GOP's direction and priorities, and preparing for a possible third national campaign.
Republican officeholders fear his wrath; Republican candidates eagerly kiss his ring; and Republican officials at every level of government scramble to stay in his good graces.
It's an increasingly bizarre dynamic, but it's one the GOP appears reluctant to abandon.