A few days ago, the New York Times ran yet another article questioning former President Donald Trump’s status as a kingmaker within the Republican Party. Author Shane Goldmacher offers some interesting data points: for example, the fact that Trump’s political action committee has a war chest of $120 million-plus. (If a March article in Politico is correct, that’s $10 million more than Trump had just one month ago, and more than double what either the Republican National Committee or the Democratic National Committee has in their coffers.)
Goldmacher mocks the aspiring GOP candidates who visit Mar-a-Lago (Trump’s Palm Beach home) as “supplicants,” “sycophants” and “Trump whisperers.” He quotes Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, who compares them to pitiful “contestants vying for his approval” in “The Apprentice,” Trump’s former reality TV show. Goldmacher even remarks with some astonishment that Trump is “downright stingy” compared with the political patronage for which certain politicians (and their family members) are infamous. Trump apparently doesn’t hand out big checks to people he likes.
The purpose of these pieces is apparently to warn of both Trump’s increasing and waning power, to ridicule those seeking his endorsement and minimize his impact. (As if Trump-supporting Americans are suddenly going to say, “Wow, the New York Times doesn’t like Trump? Who knew? Better change my opinion.”)
But Goldmacher’s piece, like most others, misses the point.
He has a lot of company. Ever since Trump glided down the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015, to announce his candidacy for the United States presidency, pundits and party power brokers have misunderstood the phenomenon that is Trump’s political rise, as well as his staying power. Democrats treated Trump as a laughing stock. Republicans were sure that a party stalwart like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie would win over conservative voters’ hearts. The media could not grasp that the public would not believe — or vote — as they were being instructed to.
They were all wrong then. They still don’t get it now.
Trump did not slice through a slate of 16 other Republican candidates because of his status as a reality TV star. Nor, seven years later and after a term in the White House, is Trump a kingmaker because of his money or charisma. Trump has the power he does because he refuses to be cowed by leftists anywhere, and because he speaks for tens of millions of Americans who have been completely left behind by both the Democratic and Republican parties.
The number of Americans who see Trump as their political voice went from 63 million in 2016 to 74 million in 2020. Those numbers cross all traditional party boundaries, and they are growing, as evidenced by the thousands who continue to show up to Trump’s rallies.
Americans are deeply concerned about the millions of people pouring illegally across our southern border, the influx of lethal drugs and human trafficking. They are stunned by law enforcement’s capitulation to criminality. Their household budgets are hemorrhaging due to skyrocketing gas prices and the inflation that has accompanied it. They are appalled to see biological men infiltrating and dominating women’s sports, and horrified to learn that LGBT activists are inserting discussion about their sexual preferences and sexual practices into the curriculum of elementary school children, as well as encouraging gender confusion, all behind the backs of parents.
Americans continue to be buffeted and blindsided by the disastrous policies of the Democratic Party — now in control of the White House and Congress — and frustrated by the Republican Party’s utter fecklessness in the face of this destructive lunacy.
Anyone who thinks the old rules are still in play is not paying attention.
The closest Goldmacher gets to identifying the actual source of Trump’s influence is his statement that “Mr. Trump’s war chest certainly projects power, but it is his enduring popularity with the party’s base that most frightens other Republican leaders.”
Boom. There it is. As much as Democrats hate Trump, establishment Republicans arguably hate him more, and many want him out of the way. He makes them look bad. It was so much easier for them when they could safely compare themselves to Democrats and run on empty promises they had no intention of fulfilling once elected.
That ship has sailed.
All this blather about Trump being in complete control of the Republican Party ignores a fundamental truth: Any Republicans (and quite likely some Democrats) who want the power Trump has could have it. All they’d have to do is advance the interests of the American public, stick to their guns and tell the media to take a flying leap. But they can’t bring themselves to do that, so their political aspirations languish in limbo, and they blame Trump.
Goldmacher concludes by looking at the floundering of some candidates Trump has endorsed as the much-hoped-for proof that his power as a “party machine boss” is failing. That’s not what it proves. To the contrary, it is evidence that no candidate, no party, no party boss controls the voters in Trump’s base. It is the voters themselves who have the power. They will no longer believe campaign promises, nor will they give their electoral support to any candidate who does not walk the talk.
Even someone endorsed by Trump. Even Trump himself.
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