It will be the day after Trump. A cloudy January morning, as the cold nibbles at the faces of the audience and a handful of TV cameras compete with a horde of cell phones to capture the story: On the steps of the Capitol Joe Biden takes over as president of the United States, surrounded by the barely disguised joy of the mainstream press, which immediately covers all the channels with feel-good stories about his family life and his pets, interrupting them only for some analysis on the style of Kamala Harris, named almost automatically as the new icon of American fashion and good taste.
At the same time, Donald Trump leaves Washington as an ordinary citizen, followed by a swarm of hostile reporters who ask him repeatedly about the investigations that the new government will imminently launch on his administration.
And yes, I wish it weren’t so. But it will. On December 11th, the Supreme Court rejected the procedure put forward by Texas to potentially modify the election results in Pennsylvania and other key states. At this point, reversing Biden’s victory (fraudulent or not) has become virtually impossible; so on January 20, 2021, Joe will arrive at the White House, he’ll be sworn in, deliver a message that the press will sell as the best speech in history. Meanwhile, the conservative movement will have to define the way forward.
The road does not end the day after Trump
Although at this point it is still impossible to know the nuances that will define the political scene next year, there are certain elements that we can count on beforehand, which lead us to four reflections:
- First. The popular right was not Trump’s invention; it existed before him. However, we must recognize that Donald’s campaign and administration represented a huge push for this movement, which will now face a difficult decision. They can either prioritize institutional loyalty or become full-fledged Trumpists even outside the GOP (something akin to the third party that Theodore Roosevelt founded in 1912, just after leaving the Republican Party).
They will have to make a choice, aware that on both sides of the political landscape, the most extremist voices, empowered by social media, are clamoring for a renewed ideological purity. Still, Twitter is not the real world, and most people in the real world are not willing to linger in an endless spiral of polarization.
- Second. Trump will be able to continue being a protagonist. Donald will be 78 by the 2024 election, and perhaps not strong enough to govern in 2025-2029 with the same vigor he showed between 2017 and 2021. However, Donald Trump Jr., or some other family member, can continue the journey and become a natural leader of the Republican Party. America doesn’t like kings, but it sure likes dynasties. If the Bush family could, the Trump family can do it.
- Third. Conservatives would be making a serious mistake if they thought that the mainstream press’s slander and bad faith against Trump was due solely to his impulsive character. For decades now, the left has applied those same accusations of homophobia, classism, xenophobia, and fascism against Republicans, and they won’t stop now. The mainstream press will focus its barrage on painting any relevant Republican with the same hateful colors they tried to use on Trump.
Deep down, the left is not forgiving of anyone who dares to stand up to them, and we can’t expect them to stop playing dirty when they have done so against Reagan, against the Bush, Sr. and Bush, Jr. and even against the very “well-behaved” McCain and Romney. The relative mid-century civility will not return anytime soon, if it ever existed at all.
- Fourth. Trump’s style has left a significant mark on the Republican Party and the popular right movement in the U.S. and the rest of the world. However, that doesn’t mean that the future of these movements resides in the hands of copycats.
Leaders, not copycats
Donald’s style works for him because of the peculiar characteristics of his personality, his identity, his personal brand, and his political circumstances, but it is not a magic formula. On the contrary, if conservative politicians start imitating Trump’s strategies, the result could be truly grotesque.
We don’t need an army of clones, but leaders who have their own style, who develop it authentically, and who learn from Trump that you can be brave in the face of the left, you can speak out, and connect with the people even when you have the entire industrialized press against you.
The day after Trump will be a tricky time for the right. It will be painful to watch the parade and the cynicism of woke-left, but it is not the end of the road. Let’s not lose sight of that long game that Mitch McConnell emphasizes. From January 20, 2021, the next stage begins. And, as always, the most crucial election in history will be the next one on our path. It doesn’t end in 2021; it has just begun.