It was barely two years ago that a maddened mob, driven delirious by Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud, stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, killing five people and injuring 138 police officers.
Just hours before the attack, the rioters were provoked by Donald Trump, in an hour-long speech outside the White House. The president told his supporters that the election had been “stolen by emboldened radical-left?Democrats”. He said, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” The president used the word “fight” – or variations thereof – more than twenty times.
Since then, President Trump has been driven into the political wilderness, where he was banned from all major social networking sites and remained a thorn in the side of congressional Republicans. But now, President Trump, fresh from his return to Twitter, hopes to achieve what only one other man in American history – Grover Cleveland – has so far done – serve a second, non-consecutive term in office.
Trump’s campaign launch looked tried and boring – it was a repeat episode in a series America and the world had already watched for four years. There was nothing new; nothing aspirational; and nothing to suggest he could fix the economic fragility of the Biden years.
Though that didn’t stop the usual suspects from throwing their weight behind the 45th President: Trump has already secured the endorsement of many Republicans. Immediately following his announcement, Kari Lake – the GOP candidate for Governor in Arizona, once described as ‘Trump in a dress’ – threw her weight behind the former president. Lake has been touted as a potential vice-presidential pick.
It’s worth considering that Lake has just lost her race to be Governor of the Grand Canyon State – a race in which she aligned herself with the hard-line, election-denying wing of the Republican Party. And it’s not just the insurrection and election-denials that make this campaign more difficult for Donald Trump. It seems many republicans who supported Trump in his last two campaigns have grown tired of his dangerous and divisive politics.
Last week Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence told CNN that America needed “new leadership” and signalled he would not support Trump’s candidacy. On January 6th, the mob assembled at the Capitol bellowed calls to ‘hang Mike Pence’ for what they saw as his complicity in certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump has picked a fight with rising star Ron DeSantis, the Florida Governor, perhaps jealous that he’s gaining traction amongst the conservative-wing of the party, currying favour with those who like Trump’s policies but are tired of the egotism that fuels his candidacy.
And, then of course there are the recent mid-term elections. How might the results impact the race for 2024? Republicans gained no seats in the Senate, maintaining the pre-election 50-50 balance and they could be on track to drop to 49 seats, if they fail to win the Georgia run-off scheduled for December. In the House, though the Republicans secured the majority, Democrats lost only a handful of seats – the best mid-term performance for the president’s party in four decades.
Senate republican leader Mitch McConnell conceded many independent voters were “frightened” by the extreme nature of some in the GOP. And more surprisingly at the state level, Democrats didn’t lose a single state legislature – the first for the president’s party, in a mid-term year, since 1934.
Trump said if republicans embraced him, they’d win so much, they’d get tired of winning. On countless occasions he saw a ‘red wave’ in his sights. For many republicans, it was a wave of undiluted chaos.
The republican ship is sinking, and Donald Trump is the man at the helm. Republicans must decide whether they want to sink with Trump or make him walk the plank.