Disregarding concerns within the Grand Old Party of the political implications and showing one more time that it was only all about himself, Donald Trump made the expected grand announcement that he is in the fray for the US Presidential election of 2024.
The not-so-stunning announcement in the ballroom of his Mar-a-Lago residence at Florida before hundreds of his supporters was relatively subdued and minus the boisterous environment of a political campaign.
That said, the 45th President’s characterisations of what America was under his Presidency and the current Biden administration, were not without its share of wild statements and “innocent” insinuations — of blood soaked streets, rise in water levels due to climate change as never seen in the last 300 years or the present dispensation in Washington drying up the strategic petroleum reserve that had been so carefully maintained in the four years of Trump administration, to mention a few. Trump had no use for fact checking in the past and that fact checkers were out in numbers for his Florida announcement hardly bothered the man.
The striking thing about Trump and Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday evening was not just the former President unusually sticking to a prepared text and the teleprompter. Also quite obvious was the lack of any prominent personalities among the audience either from the Republican Party or from within his own family, not ably his daughter Ivanka who later issued a statement saying that while she is with her father, that would be outside of the political campaign. Other notable absentees included earlier high profile campaign members and political sycophants.
For close to a year now, Trump has been teasing about a return to 2024 run; and it was gathering momentum in the run up to the November 2022 mid-term. Much to the relief of the conservative establishment, the former President put off his Grand Statement until after the polls; and some within the GOP hoped that he will still hold back given that the Senate run-off election in Georgia was due on December 6.
But Trump not only brushed aside these concerns but went on heap praise on the Republican candidate Herschel Walker. Whether the former President will travel to George to campaign for his handpicked candidate or if the Walker campaign would even want Trump in its midst is a different story.
In normal circumstances the Trump announcement would have come with a lot of fanfare; but Republicans are yet to get over their mediocre to poor showing at the hustings and much of this is blamed on the so-called Trump factor or the fashion in which the former President injected himself into the races by picking candidates of his choice—notably those who were 2020 election deniers or those who went along with bizarre conspiracy theories of the Joe Biden victory.
On Tuesday, Trump put out the outlandish claim that he posted a 232 win and 22 loss score with a strike rate of more than 98 per cent in the primaries.
The results of November 2022 mid-terms present a different picture. Still counting more than a week after the polls closed, Republicans look to reach the 218 cut off mark with the prospective Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, not sure of his election by the full House in January given what the extreme right wing in the GOP may have up its sleeve; the Senate remains in Democratic hands and is even poised for a Georgia win; critical states like Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada are with Democrats; and according to one count as many as 30 election deniers and ardent supporters of Trump have fallen by the wayside.
There is a fancy notion in some quarters that the only reason why Trump has chosen his 2024 route is to avoid the litany of civil and criminal prosecutions that are lined up, some of them already in court and other expected indictments in the course of time.
The dubious business dealings of the Trump corporation aside, there is the former President’s scandalous role in overturning the 2020 elections at the state levels and allegations of sedition as a result of the January 6, 2021 Capitol Hill violence that left several people dead.
Legal luminaries have not wasted time in pointing out that as an “ordinary” citizen now, Trump has no immunities; or for that matter merely being charged cannot prevent him from running for office.
The early bird catches the worm is the adage; and perhaps the thinking of the former President in throwing the first hat in the ring. This may have been true if Trump had maintained the original momentum in the immediate aftermath of the November 2020 elections; but subsequent events clearly over-shadowed a person who just stood by and perhaps even poured gasoline on a fire that was raging in America.
Now two years down the line, mainstream conservatives have started looking at alternatives and seem to be content with the emerging candidates like the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis and even former Vice President Mike Pence. For starters these are names that have surfaced and in a serious fashion but others are likely to follow.
Even for Trump to remain relevant for the next two years with the thinking that a Republican crowd would do the trick as it did in 2016, a growing number of Republicans are getting tired of the worn out cuckoo theories and fantasies that seem to impact politically.
The Republicans may get the House but are seen weakened and much of the blame has been placed on Trump. The Grand Old Party, at least unofficially, seems to be keen on taking back the White House; not if Donald Trump will pull a Grover Cleveland of 1892.
(The writer was a senior journalist in Washington DC covering North America and United Nations.)