Like a lot of political observers on the right, I was interested enough in what Donald Trump had to say at CPAC on Sunday afternoon to tune in. Because of the social media bans placed on our erstwhile President, we (and the media) haven’t had our daily fix of blurbs, barbs, and braggadocio from old number 45, so those who believed in the man were sure to be checking out what he would have to say about the election and the job his successor is doing.
Sure enough, he had plenty of red meat for the CPAC audience with his criticism of Joe Biden and hints he dropped about making another run for the White House (which wouldn’t really be his third, but his fifth since he briefly sought the Oval Office via the Reform Party ticket in 2000 and had another quick run at it in 2012.) But it’s interesting that Trump only received 55% of the open straw poll vote when everyone at CPAC knew he would be the featured speaker – then again, once we have actual contenders who announce their intentions that 55% would be more than good enough to win (and it’s still a formidable base.)
However, I have become a bit of a Trump skeptic over the last few weeks. It’s certainly not because I approve of Joe Biden’s performance, as the Commander-in-Thief has taken us backwards in so many ways. And you could certainly accuse me here of looking at things through a lens of conventional wisdom when we all know Donald Trump shattered that sucker multiple times from 2016 on, in more ways than one. But there are several reasons I think this way.
First and foremost, having Biden as president right now and watching him stumble through his limited media opportunities reminds us that he is 78 years old – which, as fate would have it, is the age Donald Trump would be should he decide to run in 2024. Trump may look to be the picture of mental acuity right now, but we need only look at the late Rush Limbaugh to know that the guy who looks healthy at a point in time (his 69th birthday last year) could be gone in less than 13 months.
The second issue is what happens to the crowd that considers Trump to be Superman. Indeed, he overcame a lot to stay President for four years – two partisan impeachments, domestic spying on his campaign, a slanted press that rarely said a kind word about him and wouldn’t give him credit for his accomplishments, and the CCP virus that actually infected him. But the combination of these factors and a lot of funny business in the 2020 election (brought on by that same CCP virus) finally put him out of office despite the vain hope of millions who believed in a miracle that did not come.
It’s very possible we saw this effect in the Georgia Senate runoff elections, as those who believed the system was rigged (because Trump and his supporters stated so, on numerous occasions all over conservative media) may have decided not to turn out. As it stands at the moment, 19-plus months out, the betting money believes the GOP takes the House back from the Democrats given the slim margin the Democrats have to work with and the nearly-traditional loss the party in the White House endures during its first midterm. But if the GOP snatches that defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s going to be blamed on Trump supporters who didn’t support the overall Republican party when the need was great.
Still, Donald Trump was the outsider and he’s managed to keep that perception despite the fact he was the incumbent by running against the “Swamp.” It’s not going to get any less murky but there are other candidates who can tout their renegade status thanks to the pandemic response.
And finally, I just think people are ready for something new. Part of Bill Clinton’s charm back in 1992 was his youth, with people believing it was finally time for a Baby Boomer president – a term that describes the quartet of Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. (Three of the four were born within a couple months of each other in 1946.) On a generational scale, Joe Biden actually hearkens back to the Silent Generation as their first (and probably only) President as no other President was born between 1924 and 1946.
By the time we get to the next election, the top end of Generation X will be sixty years old. (By that same token, Baby Boomers will almost all be retirement age and above.) There are a number of great Republican candidates who were born in that era and it should finally get its due next time around. (Assuming Kamala Harris takes over sometime in the next four years, she will actually be the first Generation X president, born in 1964 a month after I was.) Donald Trump is a very popular man, but the generation he’s most popular among is the one that beginning to pass from the scene. That’s not so much Trump fatigue as it is the march of history.
But the American people may be ready for a new flavor in 2024, so don’t assume that Donald Trump will be this century’s Grover Cleveland just yet.