There has been a lot of talk about dangerous tropes in politics in recent months, especially from my fellow conservatives.
And while I empathize with some of their concerns, I must shine a light on the most dangerous trope in contemporary political discourse: Trumpism without Trump.
Many ostensibly right-wing political commentators are vocally pining for Trumpism without Trump. They want to retain most of the America First policy proposals he brought to the fore along with the momentum and enthusiasm he garnered with his unprecedented rise through the GOP, but they want to retire the former President and keep him on the sidelines where his controversial musings and magnetic persona will not dominate the public conversation.
When Sen. Mitch McConnell and others defunded candidates in battleground states who had winnable seats, they did so as a demoralization tactic meant to stop the rise of America First and bolster the Uniparty. The establishment-backed notion of Trumpism without Trump is a dangerously insidious fallacy because the America First movement relies on Trump’s bold and energizing personality; Trump is the sole figure to emerge as our nation’s champion, and his movement represents the last chance for Americans to avert total despair. America First cannot survive without him.
The personal, emotional relationship between Trump and his base cannot be understated. Without Trump as the candidate in 2024, at least a million of his supporters will stay home and refuse to vote Republican. They hate the system, know how they are being screwed, and rightly believe that most politicians in both major parties should be given the boot. They only trust one candidate: Trump. These voters are the forgotten men and women of this country; they put Trump in office in 2016, and losing them will assure losses in any election moving forward.
If Trumpism disappears, the Republican Party will fall back into the Bush-era neoconservatism of old. This toxic ideology means open borders, placating illegal immigrants, and offering watered-down liberalism to win over the votes of new demographics as the founding stock of Americans is washed away. To Bush-era neoconservatives, social issues are only worth considering when they can be exploited to keep the base voting Republican. To the neocons, Christian values are nothing but a canard leveraged intermittently to trick voters into supporting a foreign policy of imperial conquest.
Republican constituents and ordinary Americans may hate the transactional, power-driven Republican Party of the Bush-era, but it is beloved by corporate interests. This ideology pays lip service to small government ideals while showering billions in welfare to wealthy and privileged donors. This is the ideology of outsourcing jobs to China, disenfranchising the working class, lauding such actions as successes of the free market, and then giving taxpayer-funded bailouts to banksters to reward their hostile and predatory practices.
Before Trump, this was the Republican way, and there was no severe pushback aside from gadflies like former Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, both of whom amassed larger-than-expected followings on the back of grassroots’ disgust with the neocon status quo. Paul and Palin’s crusades were righteous and laudable, but they lacked the ability to command a large, nationwide following of mainstream Americans to oppose the political establishment.
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump answered the prayers of millions of Americans and delivered on his mandate, unlike any president in modern history. Anti-American forces want us to retreat and moderate ourselves in response to the greatest assault on liberty in this nation’s history. The Republican Party’s fifth column of enemies within is smiling at the thought. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trumpism is over and a more responsible conservatism is coming to replace it. What does that responsible conservatism entail? Accepting the necessity of carbon taxes in order to cut Social Security benefits for seniors.
The potential challengers to Trump’s 2024 presidential nomination are all establishment-approved, and corporate interests have no doubt that the entirety of the field can be co-opted and used to push Republican politics back to the dark ages of Bush-ism.
As effective a governor as Ron DeSantis has been in Florida, he is woefully ill-equipped to carry the banner America First in Trump’s stead. DeSantis is far weaker than Trump on three key issues: trade, foreign policy, and the Deep State. Alongside immigration, these comprise the core of Trump’s America First mandate. This is why the RINO establishment is fine with DeSantis being the 2024 nominee, even though his pseudo-Trumpian style is a bit of a turn-off to them.
Other wannabe candidates such as former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Senator Tim Scott are barely worth mentioning. They pose no more of a threat to Trump’s resurgence than the likes of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the many others whom Trump humiliated in 2016. They will merely get Trump warmed up to devastate the Democrats in the general election–a light meze before the main course. DeSantis is the only threat, and because he has shamelessly expropriated Trumpism, the establishment feels that he is uniquely suited to undermine Trump’s resurgence in Republican and national politics.
The America First movement must remain intact for generations to come, and with demographic realities coming into focus, this future is far from a given. There are nascent organizations supporting America First values and hammering a message of the steps we must take to restore our nation, like American Virtue, Republicans for National Renewal, Precinct Strategy, and the Bull Moose Project, but these groups are in their infancy. Many other organizations expropriate the branding of America First. They are simply shell organizations for the same old grifter class that has reinvented itself to continue lining its pockets from the evolving movement.
Conservative Inc. legacy groups continue to exist and still wield an uncomfortable amount of influence because of the immense amount of money behind them. These organizations exist to suppress the activist base, remove populism from GOP politics, and put the Republican Party back on the establishment reservation. They strive to convince Republican voters to support policies against their own interests, and they cannot be underestimated. For a recent shameful example, just look at how many conservatives were riled up to support another endless war between Russia and Ukraine to protect Hunter Biden’s drug money spot.
This is a tenuous time for our movement, and we need our leader now more than ever to shepherd us through. Accepting Trumpism without Trump, succumbing to the controlled opposition propaganda, and going quietly into the night with America First is a national suicide pact. In essence, there is no turning back. The war is already on. The escalations are too much to ignore. We are in an existential fight for our society, our values, our civilization, and our very reality. We will rise and fall with this man and be rewarded for the honor of our strength and loyalty no matter how 2024 ends.