Former President Trump needs to help the GOP. Why? Because Republicans must take back control of Congress before President Biden’s progressive agenda further damages our country. With the GOP divided, and with both Trump and establishment Republicans shooting more inside the tent than outside, winning in 2022 will be impossible.
This weekend, Trump will deliver the keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), making his first public appearance since leaving the Oval Office. Rather than use the conservative platform to rail against his GOP opponents, he should take the opportunity to mend his fences with Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
And, to pummel Democrats. Attack Biden on opening our borders, siding with the teacher unions, threatening to put gun makers out of business, reentering the pro-China Paris Climate Accord, killing thousands of Keystone Pipeline jobs, pushing to bail out irresponsible blue cities and states…and so much more.
Trump has a responsibility to repair some of the damage done by his prolonged battle over the outcome of the election and the resulting attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Among the victims of that battle were Kelly Loefflerand David Perdue, Republicans who lost their Senate seats because angry Trump supporters in Georgia failed to turn out in the special election.
Jason Miller, a long-time Trump aide and campaign adviser, told Axios that the former president would present a “show of force” at CPAC, telling the world “I may not have Twitter or the Oval office, but I’m still in charge.” Miller added, “Trump effectively is the Republican Party.”
Trump is not the entire Republican Party, but he is certainly the dominant player. A recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows that more than half of the 74 million people who voted for Trump last November (54 percent) are more loyal to Trump than to the GOP (34 percent). Given a choice between supporting a third-party formed by Trump and the GOP, 46 percent chose the billionaire real estate developer while only 26 percent picked the Republican Party.
That spells trouble. It suggests that without Trump at the top of the ticket, and if he continues to belittle the GOP, his supporters may not show up in the midterms. That could leave Joe Biden unchecked.
Why might the pugilistic former president take the high road? First, because he has a chance to rescue his legacy; also, because he can show up former President Obama, who left his party in shambles. Though liberals would like to forget this ugly truth, during Obama’s eight years in office, Democrats lost more House, Senate and state legislative seats and governorships than any president since Eisenhower.
By comparison, Trump left his party with control of the legislatures and governors’ mansions in 24 states, while Democrats control only 15. That edge will help the GOP in upcoming redistricting battles, which boosts their chances of re-taking control of the House.
By coming to the aid of his party, Trump can burnish his reputation and become the party’s chief kingmaker. But he must set a new tone and put the interests of the country ahead of his desire for vengeance.
Trump’s popularity declined in the aftermath of the Capitol riots, but much of the damage has already been repaired. (The recovery could be because Democrats, as always, have overplayed their hand.) Pew polling shows that in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot Trump’s approval fell to 29 percent, down from 38 percent last August. The survey shows that 25 percent of his strong supporters turned against him.
But a more recent Morning Consult/Politico poll indicates some reversal. Some 59 percent of Republicans now say Trump should play a major role in the party, up from 41 percent in early January. Fewer GOP voters hold Trump responsible for the events of Jan. 6, and 54 percent would back him were he to run again in 2024, up from 42 percent in early January.
So Trump has clout, without a doubt. Unhappily, it sounds like Trump is more intent on using his influence to settle scores that to defeat Democrats. He has indicated that he will work to primary those Republicans who recently voted to impeach him.
He should not take that path.
While his wrath at Republicans like such as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) and others who voted to impeach is understandable, his determination to wreak vengeance could undermine GOP efforts to retake the House and Senate. Primary battles are ugly affairs; the challenger by definition damages voter enthusiasm for the incumbent as he builds his case, and money is drained from the party’s coffers.
Already, the GOP infighting has taken a toll, distracting the nation and allowing President Biden to plow ahead with a bloated and unnecessary $1.9 trillion “rescue” bill.
Trump has led the GOP through the beginnings of a seismic shift, attracting working-class voters and sending establishment elites into Joe Biden’s corner. This was bound to be a messy realignment and unsettling to party leaders like McConnell, but it brought millions of new voters inside the GOP tent. That should be celebrated.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and “America First” policies on immigration and trade, among others, proved popular and are important for the nation. As Biden feverishly cancels and contradicts his predecessor’s every order and act, Trump supporters will be energized. But they will look to Trump for guidance.
He can use this moment to resurrect his legacy, or he can continue on with the belligerence and self-promotion that undermined his popularity. Trump is a force to be reckoned with; he still commands a sizeable following, who believe he has been ill-treated. But if he careens down a dark path of self-destructive retaliation, he will lose his platform and influence.
Please, Mr. president, rise to this moment. The country needs you, again.
Published on The Hill