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Assault on America, Day 251: Trump leaves mark on GOP politics, but his agenda will endure

Trump tweet
What comes next will scare you to death.

The phrase almost sounds like the trailer to a barebones budgeted cheesy Hollywood horror flick, but in reality it’s what a lot of conservatives and Republicans are thinking these days in the drawn-out lead-up to the all-important 2020 election. Anyone with common sense knows President Donald Trump will be the GOP name on the ballot next November and he’ll face one of the 20 or so remaining Democrats running to oppose him (or will a “White Knight” candidate like Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton jump in?).

So right-leaning folks understand it’ll be at least a couple years before anyone declares his or her desire to be the after-Trump in Republican-land. Rumors abound concerning those already working behind the scenes to be that person. But if we can’t accurately estimate political outcomes a couple months -- much less several years -- in advance, it’s all just speculation at this point.

It’s like predicting the weather. You can forecast all you want but Mother Nature has the last say-so. Does this go for climate change as well?

Regardless, the next Republican standard-bearer will face a very different landscape than the one Trump and the dozen-plus contenders confronted in 2015-16. Trump has laid waste to the GOP’s stuffy “it’s all about the rich” war-mongering Bush-ian neoconservative image, which will present serious challenges to whomever seeks to be his successor.

Like Ronald Reagan in the 80’s, Trump’s brand of conservative America-First populism has realigned both parties. And Democrats no longer appear to care about the regular working-class Joe anymore, preferring to foist wacko “climate change” fixes and radical social policy dictates on an unreceptive public instead. Whereas Trump has working people loving the GOP, Democrats are charging hard to appease the fringe Antifa-like elements of the electorate.

Trump’s social media habits have also transformed things… is there no going back? Philip Klein wrote at The Washington Examiner, “[L]et’s just say that Trump loses in a landslide in 2020, and the Republican powers that be are eager to leave him in the rearview mirror. One thing will guarantee that he remains a dominant voice in Republican politics and will make it much harder than usual for future Republican candidates to break away from him: his Twitter feed.

“Trump was an active Twitter user before running for president, throughout his campaign, and during his presidency. He has used the forum to generate controversy and lambaste his critics. There is no reason to believe that will stop when he leaves office and every reason to believe that with more time on his hands and fewer constraints, he’ll feel even more freedom to let it rip to his tens of millions of followers. Trump is 73 years old — his mother lived until 88 and his father until 93. It’s quite possible that he could be tweeting for a very long time.”

Klein’s last observation was particularly thought-provoking. American voters traditionally haven’t paid much mind to how long a president’s legacy might last after leaving office, but it’s something that’s extremely important in today’s know-everyone’s-business-all-the-time social media universe. It used to be presidents would retire back to a comfortable home-state or other attractive locale, play a lot of golf, pal around with like-minded political chums from the glory years and carefully nitpick over minute details of their presidential libraries.

And most importantly, they’d leave the governing to their successors, mostly just glad to be free from the all-consuming swamp that made their lives miserable for four or eight years. Heck, the late George H.W. Bush seemed to love his post-presidency existence a heck of a lot more than his years in Washington. Sky-diving on your milestone birthdays? Who the heck does that?

In contrast, son George W. Bush’s virtually disappeared from the media radar, resurfacing only occasionally to snark at conservatives (like Trump and Ted Cruz) who dared to question his steering of the GOP ship. Ah, a failure in office and a non-entity in retirement. ‘Tis a shame.

Trump may be different in the sense he already had a fabulous non-politics-based life prior to assuming the world’s most prestigious (but also toughest to execute) office. And he’s kept at the things he enjoys while serving as president. It just so happens Trump relishes speaking to packed arenas full of admirers and supporters. It’s like the ultimate celebrity narcissistic sensation -- nothing quite like it in the entertainment industry or the world of business, that’s for sure.

Trump’s mother and father’s longevity suggests he’ll be involved in the post-Trump world for ten to fifteen years (at least), tweeting out his thoughts on every impulse. Will his political descendants enjoy it? “Future Republican candidates may not covet Trump’s endorsement, but they certainly will fear his anti-endorsement. This will likely limit the extent to which they will be willing to distance themselves from Trump, and that could shape the direction of the party,” Klein concluded.

Herein lies another media fallacy. As a wealth of establishment Republicans, #NeverTrumpers, politically tone-deaf losers and Mitt Romney (he fits in all the categories, doesn’t he?) have discovered, if you criticize Trump you also touch nerves with his supporters and what they believe in. Many conservatives love Trump’s confrontational style, which is a refreshing switch from the usual mild-mannered Republicans who roll over like dogs to have their furry tummies scratched by the media whenever they’re criticized.

But as much as MAGA folks personally like the president they love his agenda even more. Trump is the first politician, perhaps since Reagan, who’s really sought to keep his campaign promises. Unlike Trump’s predecessors, he didn’t alter his course the minute he sat down behind the vaunted Resolute desk. From the start Trump took his campaign themes and acted upon them, which has only served to draw his voters closer to him.

It’s highly unlikely any future GOP aspirant would want to alienate Trump, for if they earn his ire they’ll certainly tick off a big chunk of the party’s voters as well. Candidates won’t fear getting on Trump’s bad side half as much as they’ll worry about the people he represents, which are clearly a large majority of the Republican electorate now. Did any of the post-Reagan candidates go out of their way to distance themselves from The Gipper?

Not a chance. Reagan’s approval ratings remained respectable throughout his second term despite the Iran-Contra mess and his acquiescence to Democrats and establishmentarians in his own party to raise taxes in 1986 (rates went down but many high earners ended up paying significantly more due to elimination of tax shelters). Government grew significantly under Reagan too. But his endless optimism and boundless belief in America -- and its people -- is what citizens loved about Reagan. And they were willing to overlook some of his mistakes because of it.

Trump isn’t as beloved as Reagan but his backers still appreciate the combative punch-returning brashness he displays -- especially on social media. It’s likely the next round of Republican presidential candidates will find themselves a little more provocative and a lot less meek and passive than some GOP leaders of the past. If not, they’ll be tossed out on a dime.

Democrats will aid conservatives in the post-Trump transition too, largely because they’re unlikely to “moderate” themselves. As last week’s CNN climate change forums revealed, Democrats are moving farther and farther out on the edge. Erick Erickson wrote at The Resurgent the day after the (unintentional) laugh-fest, “I have no idea what CNN will have to declare as the value for Donald Trump’s campaign disclosure report, but it will have to be in the millions. Last night, the network put all the Democrats on a stage to let a group of hippies, eccentrics, and others ask questions about the climate and environment...

“The whole thing shows what Democrats would do if left to their own devices — destroy the U.S., the energy sector, and the economy. I have been hugely critical of President Trump’s economically disruptive tariffs, but they are nothing compared to the devastation the Democrats’ climate schemes would unleash on our economy.

“No sane person could see either the Democrats or their questioners last night and think letting them take control of the government is in the best interest of this country.”

This is saying a lot considering it’s from Erickson, the one-time lead element of the #NeverTrump troupe who swore he would never vote for Trump (hence the name of the group). Erickson and cohorts did everything they could to find an alternative candidate in 2016 and many ended up backing no-name Evan McMullin in the end.

Erickson’s since morphed into a tepid Trump backer who still snipes quite a bit but recognizes the political opposition is far worse. Folks like Erick feared Trump was a liberal trojan horse who would invade the Republican city and wreck the place. It didn’t happen -- and he now gives credit where it’s due.

But Erickson’s larger point is well-taken. Democrats are doing a lot of the heavy lifting for Trump in his reelection effort by championing worldwide abortion as a means for population control (like Bernie Sanders advocated), favoring banning red meat from American diets (courtesy of Kamala Harris) and backing a proposal to federally buy-back fossil fuel burning cars (as Andrew Yang mumbled about) and replace them with electric vehicles.

You don’t even need to be a good politician to oppose these nutcases. Talk about scaring people to death -- it’s what Democrats do best. And Trump will do plenty well with his message framing without the Democrats’ help.

Conservative candidates needn’t fret over the day when Donald Trump leaves office and starts his post-presidency career tweeting and influencing GOP politics. As long as they keep Trump’s popular agenda in mind, they’ll be fine -- and avoid the wrath of The Donald at the same time.

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