Despite having lost the election, Trump – and Trumpism – is not going anywhere.
With Donald Trump losing to Joe Biden in one of the most contentious presidential elections in US history, the question now is: What will Trump do next and what happens to the Republican Party?
By all indications, even though he won't be president for a second term, Trump is likely to continue exerting a huge influence upon both the media and the future of the American right.
In a Washington Post article speculating about the future of the GOP if Trump loses, a former Marco Rubio spokesperson was quoted saying that “Trump could be our party’s Iraq War,” adding, “I wonder if years from now we are nominating someone who had nothing to do with the Trump era.”
Apart from the fact that the Iraq War was hardly a career-ender for anyone involved in both parties, the idea shared by “never Trump” Republicans in addition to many Democrats is that Trump and anyone associated with him will be exorcised from the GOP once and for all upon being defeated.
However, after Trump exceeded the odds by turning out over 70 million to vote for him in the election, that scenario is wishful thinking. Trumpism was far from being repudiated or swept into the dustbin of history. It’s now part of America's furniture.
The expectation of a Trump-free GOP relies on a belief that Trump came out of nowhere. Trump did not change the radical corporatism and white identity politics of the Republican Party – he just aired it out in the open.
Now some of the party’s exiled neo-conservative ideologues are said to be pinning their hopes on Liz Cheney – former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter – to “restore their brand of conservatism after Trump”.
Again, it might be more wishful thinking.
Having molded the party into his own image over four years, it’s hard to imagine any candidate that doesn't have Trump’s blessing during the 2022 midterms or for that matter whoever wins the GOP nomination in 2024.
Not only that, he has left a template for anyone that follows him.
Trump plotted a highly successful political model by obtaining the presidency in one shot, capturing the media and driving every single news cycle. You do that, and you instantly have immense power. That skill alone transforms him into not only a cultural lightning rod but an agenda setter.
Much like former president Barack Obama’s staying power within the Democratic Party, Trump can conceivably position himself as Republican kingmaker, given his massive popularity with the party’s base.
And just how Obama spawned lesser spinoffs attempting to mimic him (see Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg), Trump has already created replicas trying to mirror his invective and bombastic style.
No other figure will have the cache to move votes or swing elections within the GOP, and Trump’s twitter feed is likely to be the single most powerful endorsement in the party. (He essentially live-tweeted politics for six years before he became president, why would he stop post-presidency?)
New media venture?
Considering how much Trump loves the national spotlight and has long been obsessed with cable TV, one potential post-Trump era future might soon come into focus: His own media project.
Reportedly Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has again been talking up the idea of starting a Trump-themed news outlet or some other media company, possibly as soon as after the election, according to five Republicans familiar with the discussions.
Such a media venture was floated back in 2016, with the idea to convert the fame and cache Trump had built up during his presidential run. But after he won, it was put on hold.
It makes all the sense in the world for Trump. The media greased its wheels on his presidency for four years as their ratings skyrocketed and aren’t likely to look away in the post-Trump era.
And given the dire financial straits Trump is in – he will owe more than $400 million in loans coming due over the next few years – he is going to need to make some cash after the presidency. A media venture might be the perfect next act.
His brand, which amounts to his name, has always been the biggest money maker for his companies. Could we soon being seeing the Trump News Network on the airwaves?
Trump was always well suited to play an executive on TV. He’d be right at home lambasting the Biden-Harris administration in all the ways that resonates with his base.
All the ingredients it seems are there for Trump to dominate the right-wing media ecosystem unlike anyone else before him.
American politics has become something resembling pro-wrestling style entertainment these days. So why would Trump go anywhere?