Which does not mean — sorry Republican establishment! — that Trump will magically disappear. In fact, quite the opposite.
“He is without question the most powerful voice in our party. He will have an enormous impact on our party going forward,” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, one of Trump’s most high-profile GOP critics, noted on “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I believe the great majority of people who voted for Donald Trump want to make sure that his principles and his policies are pursued. So, yes, he’s not disappearing by any means. He’s the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to the Republican Party.”
Yes, he is. And Trump is a 900-pound gorilla who a) hates to lose and b) already is being floated by his loyalists as a possible 2024 candidate.
Which is, of course, in Trump’s professional and political best interests. We know from The New York Times’ reporting this fall that Trump has hundreds of millions in personally guaranteed loans coming due in the next few years and a dwindling number of revenue streams.
Trump badly needs, then, to stay relevant. He needs to be seen as a major player in GOP politics — and a potential once and future presidential nominee. (I’ve noted before that Trump’s most obvious next step after the presidency is to start a conservative cable network to rival Fox News.)
And he has all the tools to make it happen. He’s by far the most high-profile and popular figure within the Republican base. His 2016 victory spawned a slew of Trump copycat candidates in downballot races, many of whom won strongly GOP House seats last Tuesday. And he still has his Twitter handle — and its 88.9 million followers
As Jonathan V. Last wrote of Trump in a prescient piece in The Bulwark way back in December 2019:
“There is no reason to think—none at all—that he will discontinue his penchant for weighing in on American politics on an hourly basis. There is every reason to think that he will vigorously attack any Republican who was disloyal to him during his administration. Or retroactively criticizes his tenure. Or runs in opposition to one of his preferred candidates. Or jeopardizes any of his many and varied interests.
“What this means is that there is no way for a Trump-skeptical Republican to simply wait out the Trump years. There will be no ‘life after Trump’ because Trump is going to be the head boss of Republican politics for the rest of his days.”
That is the sober reality that Republicans must confront now — even in the wake of Trump’s loss at the presidential level.
The Point: Trump will never willingly give up the spotlight, or the power he as accrued within the GOP. And at least at the moment, no one seems even remotely willing to try and take it from him.