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The Elephant in the Room

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Americans should pause to talk about the gigantic elephant in the room: the continued political relevance of Donald Trump despite the fact that he no longer holds an elected office. Furthermore, he's no longer viewed as the head of the Republican Party, a distinction that I would argue is up for grabs. He continues to be banned on social media, his pipeline to his supporters. Despite the outcome and aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, his fundraising prowess continues to be noteworthy, but not in any outsized way that others could not easily co-opt. Even so, the liberal mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and some Republican leadership remain absolutely obsessed with Trump, and frankly, it's alarming. Look no further than their second -- yes, second -- failed attempt to convict during an impeachment trial. Only, this time, he wasn't even a sitting president during his trial, an unprecedented historical asterisk.


Despite all of this, elected officials still look to him as their titular head. Therefore, we must ask ourselves: Why? If you put truth serum into them, they would tell you it's not so much about Trump as it is about his voters. After all, regardless of whether you supported him, it is abundantly clear that he tapped into a vein that few others have in the past 20 years. But has he truly created a political monopoly that demands unfettered and blind loyalty? The party would do well to question such wild thinking, lest it continues to nosedive into a political class that feeds on anger and electoral bloodlust.

While Trump continues to be the focus in Washington, he sits in his elite Florida resort and basks in insincere glory, directed at him only because he collected 74 million votes. Note the word choice here -- collected. Many would argue that there was no leadership behind those votes. They would ask, What doctrine did Trump espouse to grow a collective voice of the people? What manifesto did he push, other than an empty call to vilify enemies? What appeal did he make to the foundations of this Republic?

His supporters would argue that he made good on many of his campaign promises, including bringing jobs back to America; making America energy independent; implementing sweeping tax reform that resulted in $2,000 back to middle-class American families; and creating some of the lowest unemployment numbers in recent history. Yes, these events occurred on his watch, but again: What was the leadership catalyst that spurred this growth? Did anyone talk of Trumponics? Was there a supply-side philosophy? One driven on monetary policy or low inflation at all costs, in the vein of a Reagan or Bush 43? That would take vision, and leadership, and I didn't see that in these policies.


The former president's opponents -- and that now includes some Republican leadership -- would say that he accomplished zilch. The former president has given absolutely no gratitude or recognition to his fellow Republican elected officials. And that alone should tell you something about the authenticity of the man. Does Sen. Lindsey Graham get an "atta boy"? Does Sen. Ted Cruz? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was workmanlike in his pushing of the Trump White House's agenda. And how does the former president acknowledge the legacy of that work? By calling the Kentucky statesman a "hack." That's a stretch of the imagination for even the harshest of McConnell critics. Likewise, have any House Republicans been thanked publicly for fighting for someone who wasn't quite sure himself of any outcome?

On the flip side, another large component of Trump's platform has, from the very beginning, been the idea of "draining the swamp." In the aftermath of the 2020 election, it should be clear to Republican leadership that in the eyes of Trump -- and, more importantly, his supporters -- draining the swamp doesn't only apply to Democratic politicians. Instead, it applies to any politician who doesn't support an "America First" or "MAGA" agenda, regardless of how they identify politically. This should surprise no one.

These are harsh truths, but they need to be said if America is to survive. Politics is an equation of addition, not subtraction. Yet we currently have a former presidential figure who is seemingly doing nothing to grow the Republican Party through definable, constructive activity. Instead, we see an unrepentant and dogmatic former president who, let's not forget, was a registered Democrat for several years. During his presidency and even more so now that he is out of office, it was and is clear that Trump cares only about those who support his singularly defined agenda. He wields a scepter of venom against his political opponents with abandon, regardless of their political party, should they stray from his guild. This is why he gained as much support as he did. To Trump and the 74 million-plus Americans who voted for him, this movement was absolutely not about being Republican or Democrat. The Republican Party simply seemed the most fitting vessel to deliver their agenda.


Republicans would do well to note this season of Donald Trump, who no longer wields definable political authority but clearly retains power. Power over what? A groundswell of voices that are angry, frustrated, confused, disillusioned and hungry -- yes, hungry! -- for true direction from their elected leaders. In hindsight, what will be chronicled as the single greatest miss of the Trump presidency was his inability, likely due to his rhetoric, to harness such a movement to return America to its best days.

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