I title this post “Trump Agonistes”, but it is really me that is having the struggle, and Trump is the reason for it.
As things stand at this moment, it appears very likely that Trump will be the standard bearer for the Republican party in 2024. The party has a number of successful governors and legislators who will be available to run, and some of them appear more attractive and less divisive than Trump. However, Trump has a plurality of supporters among the rank and file, and thus far his Republican opponents have shown no inclination to coalesce around another candidate.
Few American politicians, and no one in recent history, has been as controversial as Trump. Is he good or bad? Is he an evil person, or is he on the side of the angels? Public opinion is about 50-50 on either side of these questions. I cannot look into the heart of the man. All I can do is examine the evidence, pro and con, and come up with my own conclusions.
Donald was a son of Fred Trump, a wealthy real estate magnate in New York City. The younger Trump worked in his father’s business and later took it over and expanded it. In the process he acted as a true wheeler-dealer. Some of his ventures prospered, but many others failed; and there was an unethical aroma surrounding some of his many enterprises. Litigation was virtually unending. Nevertheless, Trump became a billionaire, and his name was soon known nationwide. He became even better known after he ventured into television and both managed and appeared in several successful shows.
Donald Trump has been married three times, the first two marriages ending in divorce. There have been five children resulting from these marriages, three sons and two daughters. Three children were born to Ivana Trump, Trump’s first wife, and they appear to be intelligent, stable and accomplished adults. All of them actively support their father and seem devoted to him. Tiffany Trump is the daughter of Donald and Marla Trump. She also appears to be close to her father. Barron Trump is the son of Donald and his current wife Melania. Barron recently celebrated his 16th birthday.
Trump does not use drugs and totally abstains from alcohol. He has been involved in several sexual peccadilloes, but he is neither a serial womanizer nor a sybarite. His detractors brand him as a misogynist, a charge they support by citing Trump’s frequent use of abrasive and degrading terminology in referring to certain women. They also label him a racist for similar reasons. Truth is, Trump is an equal opportunity insulter. Blacks and whites, males and females, straights and homosexuals are equally likely to be on the receiving end of ad hominem attacks from Trump when they oppose, criticize or otherwise displease him.
Although exposed to Sunday school and confirmed in a Presbyterian church as a youth, for much of his life Trump has shown very little interest in things spiritual. As candidate and President, however, Trump expressed support for those causes most dear to evangelical Christians. As a result, despite Trump’s sometime obnoxious persona, many evangelicals rushed to back Trump against those whom they perceived to be milquetoast Republicans or secular Democrats.
In 2015-6 Trump exploded onto the national political acene. I had never watched his television shows but had a generally negative view of the man. I knew of his espousal of the Obama “birther” theory and believed that to be stupid nonsense. Initially, I did not take Trump’s Presidential run seriously. Kasich, Rubio and Carson were my favorites. However, when Trump won the nomination, I voted for him. I would have favored any Republican over Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Trump’s victory in 2016 was a surprise to me and most Americans, and it was a true shock to the so-called “establishment.”
I’m convinced that many political leaders, Democrat and Republican, honestly believed that Trump was a threat to democratic government. Some of them still do. This belief evidently prompted some of them to resort to any means, fair or foul, to keep him from office and, when elected, bring him down. I think this distrust of Trump was the genesis of the Russian collusion accusation and the willingness of so many to believe spurious accusations against the newly elected President. Later, the fear and abhorrence felt toward Trump led to two impeachments – one to remove him from office, the other to prevent him from ever running again. All these efforts failed, but they served to further divide the nation. Many Trump haters remain convinced that he is a danger to the nation.
Despite efforts of his political enemies to bring him down, and regardless of the foot dragging and outright sabotage by denizens of the “swamp”, Trump’s first three years as President were amazingly successful.
- By executive action, Trump eliminated many burdensome and often useless regulations that had hampered business activities for years.
- Trump sponsored legislation to reduce the tax rates for most income earners, freeing up great amounts of money for consumer spending and capital investment.
- Under Trump, employment rates, especially among blacks and Latinos, reached historic highs. Unemployment compensation payments and food stamp distributions went down.
- Trump appointed conservative judges to the Federal courts, men who apparently believed in enforcing the law as written instead of interpreting it in the light of current sensibilities.
- Trump oversaw an increase in the defense budget as needed to restore military capabilities that had been serious depleted by a constant series of wars in the Middle East.
- Trump and his military commanders eliminated the ISIS caliphate and hopefully reduced the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies. Trump also managed to diplomatically isolate Iran and weaken its troublemaking capabilities.
- Trump succeeded in persuading members of NATO to pay more of their fair share for mutual defense.
- Trump declared himself to be a firm friend of the religious community and of the nation of Israel. His actions were in keeping with his words, and he gained strong support from evangelical Christian leaders and churchgoers. Late in his term, he initiated the Abraham Project, bringing some hope of a true reconciliation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
- Trump negotiated much more favorable trade deals with a number of foreign countries, mostly on a bi-lateral basis. The important trade treaty with Canada and Mexico (NAFTA) was revised and improved.
- Trump confronted China about its unfair trade practices and backed it up with threats of tariffs (including a few actual implementations). Despite howls of woe from free-traders, Trump’s gambit seemed to work. The Chinese appeared ready for a new, fairer trade deal when Trump left office.
- Trump faced up to the growing threat of illegal immigrants and drugs flowing over the southern border. He managed to persuade or coerce cooperation from Mexico and central American republics and, despite fierce opposition from a Democrat controlled Congress, began construction of a border wall.
- Trump removed many restrictions on the fossil fuel industry, opened new oil fields and pipelines and made the United States fuel independent again.
- Trump and Senator Tim Scott worked on a program to create “enterprise zones” in large cities designed to fight urban blight and benefit poor inner-city backs.
- With the assistance of those few black leaders willing to work with him, Trump succeeded in pushing through criminal justice reform measures to ensure more equitable treatment of persons convicted of non-violent (mostly drug-related) offenses.
- Trump was an amazingly energetic President and candidate. Such a frenetic level of White House activity had not been seen since the days of Teddy Roosevelt.
Of course, there were negatives.
- With the possible exception of Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump was the most un-Presidential person to ever occupy the White House. He could be reasonably pleasant if he wished to be, but often he was rude, crude, and downright obnoxious.
- Trump was often guilty of hyperbole and misstatement of facts, though hardly more so than his Democrat opponents. He was an imprecise and often poor communicator, careless in his use of language and subject to misinterpretation and ridicule.
- The country was already deeply split along partisan lines before Trump came into office. His divisive rhetoric poured fuel on the flames of discord.
- Although Trump could truthfully claim credit for a much improved economy, he did little or nothing to confront the deficit and our growing national debt. He also failed to address the impending financial collapse of Social Security and Medicare. (Of course, neither have the Democrats, nor is there any indication that they intend to do so.)
- Trump took immediate steps to withdraw from the Paris accords and afterwards seemed to ignore the threat of global warning. He rarely explained it, but his apparent rationale was that we could not afford to seriously reduce our dependence of fossil fuels unless we were assured that our foreign competitors did the same.
- Trump tried to pull back from our overseas military commitments, causing sharp disagreements with some of his military advisors.
- Trump’s constant war with the left-leaning media resulted in a plethora of anti-Trump news coverage (much of it false) and very little credit for any of his positive accomplishment. Because of the media war, Americans no longer know where to go for unbiased information.
As one can see, the positives outnumbered the negatives, and at the end of his third year as President, Trump appeared to be riding high. Trump accomplishments were in the face of constant opposition from Congressional Democrats, vicious criticism by the mainstream media, and insubordination within the ranks of the Federal bureaucracy. As Holman Jenkins recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal,
“Mr. Trump may be a compendium of human vices, but he will always be the president who withstood the most insidious, organized slur in modern memory. His enemies did that for him, not least among them a largely cretinous media that showed its true colors, which turned out to have nothing to do with fearless and searching concern for the truth.
Even before he took office, Trump was under serious assault by those who wished to unseat him. The later discredited Steele Dossier was paid for by the Clinton organization, pieced together between June and December 2016, and leaked to the press in January. It accused Trump of scandalous behavior and possibly traitorous collaboration with the Russian government. FBI and CIA experts should have quickly realized that information contained in the document was totally unreliable; nevertheless, from May 2017 until March 2019 Trump and associates were under investigation by a DOJ appointed special counsel for their possible collusion with Russians during the 2016 Presidential campaign. The counsel found no such collusion, but the long investigation placed severe stress on Trump and many of his close advisors and led to some of them being convicted on other charges.
The special counsel issued his final report in May 2019, but Trump enjoyed little time for respite, since, in the meantime, the the Democrats had retaken a majority in the House of Representatives and reelected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. She was determined to thwart Trump at every turn; and in September 2019 she initiated a new investigation based on a somewhat innocuous phone call between Trump and the President of the Ukraine. Even though it was obvious that Trump would not be convicted, Pelosi pushed through an impeachment vote in December. The President was acquitted on February 5, the day following his triumphant 2020 State of the Union address. Expressing her frustration with the speech and his expected acquittal, Pelosi ripped apart her copy of Trump’s address in front of Congress and a national television audience.
At that moment Trump’s reelection seemed assured. The economy was thriving, and the Democrat opposition had neither a coherent message nor a strong candidate.
Then came the COVID-19 epidemic.
Although Trump performed reasonably well in responding to the crisis, his detractors lost no opportunity to criticize his every action or statement. Along with the epidemic, the nation suffered through a summer of riots following the tragic George Floyd incident. Our civil society appeared to be coming unglued. These things hurt Trump, but perhaps even more importantly with respect to its effect on the coming November elections, the COVID epidemic was used as an excuse for mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other electoral changes that opened the process up to manipulation.
Biden won in 2020.
Most Americans seem to believe that the Biden’s election win was legitimate. Others, like me, think that Trump was cheated out of a second term. Nevertheless, all of us should agree that Joseph Biden is our President. We must support the Constitution and the rulings of our Federal courts.
Thus far, however, the Biden Presidency has been a disaster.
- As one of his first acts in office, under the Green banner, Biden took action against the fossil fuel industry. Since then, the price of gasoline and diesel has soared to unprecedented heights. The United State quickly lost its recently regained fuel independence.
- The inflation rate is now the highest since 1981 and still climbing, placing a heavy economic burden on the average citizen. Rising fuel costs are part of the problem, and the administration and Congressional Democrats have exacerbated the situation by spending money like drunken sailors.
- The southern border restraints were removed, and illegal persons and drugs began flowing into the United States in unprecedented numbers.
- American military forces were withdrawn pell-mell from Afghanistan, leading to a Taliban takeover and the loss of an immense arsenal of modern military equipment.
- The pressure on Iran was removed, and that nation is once more becoming a threat to Israel and to its Arab neighbors.
- With Biden’s support, the Democrat controlled congress and Democrat governors are pushing a pro-abortion, pro-LGBT agenda that is offensive to perhaps half or more of the American public.
- The fight for fair trade deals with China and other countries has been largely abandoned. The trade imbalance has reached unprecedented heights.
Republicans can hardly wait to vote in the upcoming Congressional elections. They have high hopes of regaining control of both houses in January 2023. After that, they look to the Presidential election in November 2024.
That brings us back to the question of Trump.
Many Republicans oppose Trump as being too abrasive and too divisive. Some agree with those Democrats who consider him to be a threat to constitutional government.
Bill Kristol and George Will, former conservative stalwarts and opinion makers, turned firmly against him. There are other prominent Republican never-Trumpers who either cannot abide the man or strongly disapprove of some of his policies. During his time in office, he managed to alienate a number of executives who had formerly worked with him. Rex Tillerson, his first choice as Secretary of State, left after a year in office and had a few acrimonious parting remarks. His first Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, lasted a bit longer, but his departure was also unpleasant. Both men had disagreements with the President on major policy issues. As normal with anyone who disagrees with him, Trump later bad-mouthed them. Under Trump, some cabinet positions became virtual revolving doors.
Recently, one of Trump’s former Secretaries of Defense, Mark Esper, said that he would not vote for Trump in 2024 because he felt that he was “a threat to democracy.” Also, he said that Trump lacked any core principles. Who knows if Esper’s charge is correct.? I cannot judge Trump’s inner soul. All I can do is look at his record and his accomplishments. Nevertheless, Trump’s acrimonious relationship with other Republicans, some for whom I had considerable respect, does concern me.
Perhaps the gravest charge against Trump is that he provoked the January 6, 2021, attack against the U.S. Capitol. He was impeached by the House of Representatives (the second time) because of this incident, and, though acquitted by the Senate, the House of Representatives January 6 Committee is still trying their best to convict him of inciting insurrection.
I believe Trump is innocent of that charge. Yes, Trump believed he had been cheated out of electoral victory. Yes, he urged his followers to demonstrate. No, he did not suggest that anyone storm the Capitol. Perhaps it is true that he should have done more to dissuade them.
I believe Trump is a patriotic American and no threat to constitutional government.
Should Trump be the Republican candidate for President in 2024?
To his credit, he is a fighter. No one puts fear into the hearts of his opponents more than Donald Trump. Probably more than anyone else, he possesses the gall and the fortitude to possibly clean out the Washington “swamp.” That is a herculean task, but the swamp desperately needs cleaning. Also, with a united party behind him and with a strong supporting team of young executives, Trump could go far in putting America back on the right track.
On the other side of the argument, Trump is abrasive and a divider. There will always be a considerable part of the population that absolutely despises him and will never be happy with him in office. Political turmoil would continue.
Perhaps there is some other Republican candidate who would be a good candidate and excellent administrator but less likely to raise the hackles of his political opposition. It’s even possible that such a leader could work across the aisle and unite the American people. However, I think that is highly unlikely. The progressives have gone so far out into left field that I doubt that they would cooperate with any Republican President. Also, I doubt that any Republican leader, with the possible exception of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, could stand up to Trump and take the nomination.
I would be delighted if DeSantis was to become the Republican candidate for President in 2024. I believe he would continue to push the Trump policies, and he presents a more agreeable persona and does not have the Trump baggage. He would be likely to perform better than Trump in a general election.
But Trump obviously wishes to run again, and he has strong grass roots support. A Trump-DeSantis face-off might split the Republican party and lead to electoral disaster in 2024. Under the circumstances, I hope DeSantis will decide to wait.
If he lives and is in good health, I think that Trump will be the Republican candidate in 2024.
If so, I hope to cast my vote for him that year. Assuming I’m still around, I will be 95 in November 2024.
Heaven protect us from the Democrats!