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The great Republican victory in Virginia, and the surprisingly good performance in other blue states such as New Jersey, brought up a debate that was long overdue and should be urgent: Should Donald Trump remain the great figurehead of the GOP for the next races and elections in 2024 or should the Republican Party move away from Trumpism?
Undoubtedly the good results in Virginia feed the argument that the GOP does not need Trump, since the victory is alien to the former president in terms of prominence, no matter how much the Democrats tried to sell the false narrative that Glenn Youngkin is a Trumpist.
Even in El American’s newsletter there was a discussion among editors about it. Jovel Alvarez, one of our editors, published a column explaining why Trump should not be a candidate for 2024 and why the GOP should push the former president aside. Luis Cornelio, also an editor at El American, criticized Alvarez’s stance with several points, including the danger of RINOs taking over the GOP again with their lukewarm and timorous stances in the face of advancing progressive radicalism.
Both Jovel and Luis have their points, but I don’t agree with either, at least not entirely. The first thing I must say is that the former president remains the most important political force within the conservative world, for better and for worse, and it is neither smart nor desirable to completely turn away from Trumpism or the MAGA movement, the main stimulant of the conservative base.
The second is a fact that should come as no surprise at this stage of the game: the success of Youngkin is because he was able to motivate and captivate both the moderate Republican vote and the conservative base, and this is so because he touched on vital issues within the social-political dynamics in America: the education of children in schools, insecurity, law enforcement problems (see the sexual abuse cases that were covered up and enjoyed impunity for a significant time) and, in general, the damage being caused by the increasingly radical failed progressive-Democrat policies.
Many Republicans are afraid to go head-on against Democratic radicalism, ergo, they don’t care about the culture war at all. They don’t go against the controversial and problematic Critical Race Theory, they don’t protect equal competition in women’s sports, nor do they support parents, who have the right to have a say in their children’s education.
These Republicans only complain about the Democrats, but at the same time they seek to win over with them, do not want to be labeled as extremists or supremacists and only find a comfort zone when they speak ill of socialism or communism — as if that were complicated — and proposing tax cuts.
Trump exposed fearful Republicans, was an unprecedented electoral phenomenon, reached the White House and returned the Senate to the Republicans. Without going into assessing his administration, it must be said that the former president set a clear path of success for his party: a strong Republican Party, capable of proposing policies that directly challenge the Democrats.
The GOP cannot be just the traditional party that lowers tax burdens; and almost all the “moderate” representatives of the Republican Party have that burden on them, or at least that is the perception they generate.
Trump is not a good candidate either
I partially agree with those who defend the former president. But there is another point, one that directly discourages an eventual Trump candidacy: the tycoon is no longer a good candidate.
First because during his presidency, and this for me is an objective fact, he did not prove to be the man who can save America from an unwanted future marked by woke radicalism and the techno-corporate-Democratic alliance. Ron DeSantis, for example, has been far more effective from his foxhole in fighting the power of Big Tech or protecting students and their parents from politicized school districts.
The latter is a bit more obvious: Trump is a disruptive figure who alienates many moderate Republicans but more so independents. These votes are just as important as those of the conservative base. After January 6, the former president can hardly succeed in attracting the moderate-conservative sector as a whole, and the GOP needs to pull those votes to beat the Democrats.
Finally, and this is even more important than the first two points: the Democratic Party is still adrift, even after winning the White House and dominating both Houses in Congress. As of today, the Democratic agenda is inchoate, green, woke and racial policies that do not address the immediate problems of Americans (such as inflation) and, above all, a political strategy that already had its first failure without Trump in the ring: being the anti-Trump party.
Imagine that your most important argument to attract independents, if not the only one, is to prevent the “evil” Trump from returning to power and boosting his allies into political office. Americans are not stupid and in Virginia it was demonstrated that such blackmail is useless.
A Trump out of the electoral arena would leave the Democrats and their great communicational machinery semi-knocked out, with no solid arguments and many delusions about a “destroyer” of democracy who is not even a major player in the political game, as happened in Virginia.
The Trump dilemma, ultimately a Republican and conservative dilemma, is in finding the formula for success for the midterms and the race in 2024. That goes through finding the ideal candidate who can align base and moderates, who is not afraid to take on the media, and who still has a good national reputation to attract independents. That name, to my taste, is Ron DeSantis, who is frowned upon on the left, but very popular on the right and potable for the center.
Two things are needed for this: First, for the GOP to act on Virginia’s success and not be afraid to propose policies that change socio-cultural dynamics; and, second, for Donald Trump to assume an important leadership role from a secondary role, accompanying a candidate better suited to lead the country. Today Trump is necessary, but supporting the pilot, not driving the plane.
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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