What next for Trump?

The very right wing editorial board of the Wall Street Journal has called on Trump to resign.

If Mr Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign. This would be the cleanest solution since it would immediately turn presidential duties over to Mr Pence And it would give Mr Trump agency, a la Richard Nixon, over his own fate.

This might also stem the flood of White House and Cabinet resignations that are understandable as acts of conscience but could leave the government dangerously unmanned. Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, in particular should stay at his post.

We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.

It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.

But has this episode actually “finished him as a serious political figure”? Will it really happen that “he goes away quietly”?

Making prediction about what Trump will do is harder than making predictions about the movements of a fruit fly. But what are his options?

One problem for Trump is that many of his options are now gone because of his disgraceful behavior, especially in the period since the November election. It is unlikely, for example, that he will get a TV show on any major network. He is reportedly deep in debt and his businesses are even now not doing that well even though he has used his position to drum up customers for them. Once he leaves office, that will drop off. He needs to make money and also needs to find ways to get attention for the sake of his ego. Once he is no longer president, any political activity such as holding rallies will be at his own expense and without the attention that being the president got him and he is a notorious cheapskate. He has raised quite a bit of money off the rigged election grift but can he continue to do so after he leaves?

I think that Trump has also destroyed any chance that he will be pardoned by Joe Biden. I had serious concerns that Biden would do it since presidents like to create the sense that they have immunity for their actions. But Trump may have gone too far for Biden to risk this move because it would cause far greater outrage that Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon. Trump will have to try to pardon himself and there continue to be reports that he is exploring that option.

One option is that he runs again in 2024. Although he was an unlikely winner of the nomination in 2016, essentially running against the Republican party, they quickly coalesced around him and indeed accorded him a level of slavish devotion that exceeded anything that I have seen before for a president. But they also excused and enabled his worst excesses, making him think he could do anything and thus created a monster. It enabled Trump to even boast that he could openly shoot someone and Fifth avenue and would not face any consequences.

The party is likely to resist him running again since Trump has achieved an unenviable trifecta. In 2016, Republicans won the presidency and both houses of Congress but in 2020 Trump was the first incumbent since Herbert Hoover in 1932 to lose re-election and both houses. He has proven himself to be a loser. The problem is that while he undoubtedly has the ability to bring in a whole lot of people to vote for him, he seems to also create an even bigger backlash among those who want to vote against him, as David A. Graham writes.

The results in the November and January elections underscore the peril that Trump leaves behind for the Republican Party. In both 2016 and 2020, Trump’s magic was his ability to turn out voters who either don’t always vote or have historically voted Democratic, especially white, non-college-educated voters. That was enough to put him over the top in 2016, and enough to create a scare for Biden (and pollsters) in 2020.

There are three problems with this approach. First, it wasn’t enough to give Trump a win in 2020. Second, these voters don’t appear to come out in the same numbers when Trump isn’t on the ballot. Third, Trump creates a backlash effect. Even without him on the ballot Tuesday night, Black voters turned out in droves and white suburban voters didn’t come home to the Republican Party. In short, Trump has broken the old Republican coalition, perhaps irrevocably, and created a new one that apparently exists when he’s up for election.

So will the party establishment fight him again should he choose to run? And if so, will he defeat them again? By any sane measure, his dream of possibly running again in 2024 are shot since the Republican establishment should, by all reasonable standards, not support him. Of course, unprincipled politicians have notoriously short memories when it comes to advancing their ambitions and can turn on a dime. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham are extreme examples of people who raged against Trump in 2016 and then became his most slavish acolytes. Recall that Cruz was so angry at Trump calling his wife ugly and suggesting that Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination that he used his speech at the 2016 party convention to pointedly not endorse him, getting roundly booed in the process, while Graham called him “crazy” and “a kook” who was “unfit for office”. Now look at them, willing to do anything to ingratiate themselves with him.

The big test for Trump will come in 2022. He has threatened to campaign in the mid-term primary elections against all those Republican incumbents whom he felt did not sufficiently support his efforts to overturn the election results. He thus risks creating a serious intra-party fight. If his preferred candidates win their primaries and then go on to win their mid-term elections and the Republicans regain both houses of Congress, you can be sure that the party establishment will again immediately fall in line behind him.

My guess is that at least initially, Trump will go into a deep sulk come January 21st since he will no longer be able to command media attention, will no longer be able to fly in presidential planes and helicopters and have the military salute him, and attend summits with world leaders. Even though he shirked doing the work of being president, he definitely enjoyed the pomp and prestige and adulation and giving orders to people. Now he will go back to being just an ordinary schmuck. I am not sure if his narcissism, that has been fed a high energy diet these four years, will be able to withstand the meager rations that now awaits him. His mental state, always questionable, may not be able to withstand the ignominy.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    It is unlikely, for example, that he will get a TV show on any major network.

    It was unlikely that a major network would ever have picked him up. Maybe this takes Fox off the table, but Newsmax and OAN are the main places I’ve heard he might go, and both would be boosted considerably by him on his own talk show.

    The main argument for a second impeachment is to prevent him from running in 2024, I think.

    By any sane measure, his dream of possibly running again in 2024 are shot since the Republican establishment should, by all reasonable standards, not support him.

    This sentence doesn’t follow from what you previously said. The GOP establishment will surely fall in behind any anti-Trumpist who runs against him in 2024, someone up against him like Sasse or Thune, but the voters in the primaries won’t care a hill of beans what the establishment thinks, and they’re just as likely to back Trump in 2024 as they did in 2016 and 2020. And if he wins the nomination again, the establishment will obviously fall in behind him just as cravenly as they have in the past.

    I guess your statement can’t be criticized, though, since you prefaced it with the words “by any sane measure.” Sanity ceased to have any relationship with the GOP long ago.

  2. says

    In the CounterPunch article Trump: the Final Daze, that anat @#3 linked to, I like the prediction at the end:

    Trump might well need to fake his own death just to dodge Deutsche Bank, back taxes, angry women he abused, his wife, the Manhattan D.A., the indifference of the Republican party in 2024, and deceived Russian paymasters, all of whom have seen their claims put on hold while for four years he held the United States hostage to his diminishing fortune.

    Plus, of course, I agree with Matt G’s vision, preferably enhanced by live TV coverage.

  3. Who Cares says

    Not sure if an impeachment gets through the senate but compared to the first one this one might actually get through.
    And for the republicans it better get through if they think that Trump has enough staying power to campaign again in 2024.
    If he has that staying power the people voting in the primaries will vote for Trump regardless of how badly the RNC wants to keep Trump out of the race.
    The fear of getting challenged in a primary for voting for the impeachment should also be gone since Trump holds grudges and every single republican senator has betrayed him in his mind at this point.

    So either they prevent him from running at all because they are afraid he might have the staying power to last till 2024 and on the way take revenge on the republican senators who are up for re-election.
    Or they prevent him from running at all in the expectation that his attention is occupied by something else before 2022 gets even close.
    So no downsides.

    The upside is that it makes them look like people who care about that the US is a democracy. Add in a lot of excuse apologies of not having expected their president trying to turn the US into a banana republic with a dictator and they might actually come out ahead of the Democrats in 2022.

    I doubt it will happen that way since most of the republican senators (and congress(wo)men) seem to be venal cowards who think “I will get a primary challenge if I vote for impeachment, I might not get that challenge if I show absolute servility.” thus select option two.
    Bit sad to think that people who are technically the highest (or close to highest) leadership of a country consider unconditional servility a leadership quality.

  4. raven says

    The WSJ can occasionally be hilarious in a very morbid sort of way.

    This might also stem the flood of White House and Cabinet resignations that are understandable as acts of conscience…

    Acts of conscience? From that crew of people? No way.
    We are simply watching the smarter rats deserting the sinking ship.

    … but could leave the government dangerously unmanned.

    Priceless humor.
    The government has been dangerously unmanned since 2016.
    In fact, it would be an improvement if it was unmanned rather than have the wrecking balls that Trump always picked.

  5. raven says

    The big test for Trump will come in 2022.

    This is doubtful.
    Trump has been exhibiting what could well be some sort of progressive age related cognitive impairment for as long as he has been in office.
    He’s become less coherent and more and more moody and hostile even towards what passes for his friends and family.

    If this is the case, in 2022 and 2024 he will be increasingly incoherent and less and less able to come up with anything that makes sense.

  6. Callinectes says

    Any Trump show or Network is going to quickly run into serious issues with advertisers. And his inability to take responsibility for anything will see him soon blaming his own base for not tuning in enough. His foray back into television will most likely end with the spectacle of the former Cheeto-in-Chief pausing in his paranoid rants to sell buckets of survival food.

  7. jenorafeuer says

    You assume that ‘making sense’ was ever on the list of properties his admirers were looking for. I think the whole concept of QAnon kind of demolishes that argument.

  8. StonedRanger says

    I would almost be tempted to believe the whole ‘acts of conscience’ thing if it werent for the fact that all of those people are complicit in everything that trump has done/not done to screw this country up/over. This isnt even rats leaving a sinking ship at this point, its cowards trying to escape any collateral damage when trump goes away. This is taking shirking your duties to a whole new level.

  9. brucegee1962 says


    This is doubtful.
    Trump has been exhibiting what could well be some sort of progressive age related cognitive impairment for as long as he has been in office.
    He’s become less coherent and more and more moody and hostile even towards what passes for his friends and family.

    If this is the case, in 2022 and 2024 he will be increasingly incoherent and less and less able to come up with anything that makes sense.

    But you are forgetting his #1 favorite thing in the entire world: standing in front of large crowds who don’t care if he’s spouting gibberish.
    He won’t even need to do anything in the way of organizing. If I was a lizard with no principles, the easiest thing in the world would be to announce I was running in a primary against (insert establishment Republican here), then approach the orange one and say “Hey, I will pay you big bucks and act appropriately servile if you show up at my rally and rant incoherently at an adoring crowd in my district for an hour.” Easy peasy.

  10. Heidi Nemeth says

    I agree with Raven @ 9. Trump is showing age related cognitive decline. Biden, who is as old as the average age of a nursing home resident in the US, is even older than Trump and will likely exhibit significant age related cognitive decline during his 4 years in office. With Pelosi, McConnell, Schumer, and many of the congressmen being as old as Biden, I expect the coming four years will make American voters much more aware of the normal mental deficits of octogenarians and more likely to vote for relative youngsters in 2024. The electoral tide against oldsters will keep Trump from regaining the presidency even if he were not to show more mental decline.

  11. bargearse says

    I’m not terribly worried about a potential Trump run in 2024. Winning in 2016 surprised even him I think and despite his need to feed his ego I think his attention span is too short and he’s also just too damn lazy to be bothered going through this all again. I won’t be surprised if one of his demon spawn runs though (assuming they’re not all in prison).

  12. lorn says

    I would love to see Trump removed. In the short time remaining the 25th Amendment seems more practical than impeachment but, whatever works. He is out in 13 days anyway but I relish his removal for the petty satisfaction that he could be henceforth forever referred to as a president that has less than one term. If that is just one day shy of the mark it is an asterisk that will live on forever as a mark of his inadequacy and failure.

    I mean: there are two term presidents, and there are one term presidents; he could be the first living less-than-one-term president. That is a stain that won’t wash out or fade with time. Yes. it is juvenile, and petty, and snotty, but damn-it I/we have put up with Trumps constant whining and pettiness and cruelty and it just feels right, good, and correct that he should get a serving of his own sauce.

  13. Joel Grant says

    FWIW my prediction is that Trump more or less immediately declares that he is running for the 2024 nomination. He will then be able to raise money for his “campaign”, which he will need very badly. But there will always be nutty rich right wingers willing to fund travel, rallies, etc. particularly if there is a way for them to profit as well.

    I get that Trump is nuts and evil but, on top of all that, he is a life-long con artist -- note the hundreds of millions he raised to “stop the steal” -- and I do not see that ending.

    So, what con is he going to come up with? Running for POTUS again seems to me the most likely option. His cult followers are a bottomless source of cash. Even now you can see them whining about how the disaster in the Capitol was the fault of the Dems and liberals and BLM and Antifa. They are simultaneously the fish and the barrel for a grifter like Trump (and Noah Hawley et. al.).

  14. mnb0 says

    Pseudoprogressives would love to see Donald the Clown arrested, because that’s not going to solve anything. Because why think about necessary fundamental change when there is nice, comforting symbol-politics?

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