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The elephant in the room: Trump's lingering power

The elephant in the room: Trump's lingering power
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Americans should pause to talk about the elephant in the room: the continued political relevance of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE even though he no longer holds elected office. 

Furthermore, he’s no longer viewed as the head of the Republican Party, a distinction that I would argue is up for grabs. He continues to be banned on many social media platforms, once his pipeline to his supporters. Even after losing the 2020 presidential election, his fundraising prowess was noteworthy, but not in an outsized way that others could not easily co-opt. 

Even still, the liberal mainstream media, the Democratic Party, and some Republican leaders apparently remain obsessed with Trump — and it’s frankly alarming. Just look no further than their second failed attempt to impeach and convict him. This time, he wasn’t even a sitting president during his Senate trial.

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Despite all of this, it appears that many elected officials still look to Trump as their titular head.  We must ask, why? If they told the truth, they would say it’s not so much Trump as it is his voters. After all, it is clear that he tapped into a vein that few others have in the past 20 years.  But has he truly created a political monopoly that demands unfettered and blind loyalty? The party would do well to question such wild thinking, lest it continue to nosedive into a political class that feeds on anger and electoral bloodlust.  

While Trump continues to be the focus in Washington, he resides in his Florida resort, likely basking in insincere glory directed at him because he collected 74 million votes. Note the use of the word “collected”: Many would argue there was no leadership to gain those votes. What doctrine did Trump espouse to grow a collective voice of the people? What manifesto did he push, other than an empty call to vilify enemies? What appeal did he make to the foundations of this republic?  

His supporters would argue that he made good on many campaign promises, including bringing jobs back to America, making America energy independent, implementing sweeping tax reform that gave $2,000 back to middle-class American families, and creating some of the lowest unemployment numbers in recent history. Yes, these events occurred on his watch, but here again, what was the leadership catalyst that spurred this growth? Was there a supply-side economics philosophy? One driven on monetary policy or low inflation at all costs, as with Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush? No. That takes vision and leadership, which we didn’t see in Trump’s policies.  

The former president’s opponents — now including some Republican leaders — would say that he accomplished zilch. Certainly, Trump has expressed no gratitude or recognition to his fellow Republican elected officials, and that alone should tell you something about his authenticity. Did Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Overnight Energy: Biden reportedly will pledge to halve US emissions by 2030 | Ocasio-Cortez, Markey reintroduce Green New Deal resolution MORE (R-S.C.) get an “attaboy”?  Did Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzChauvin likely to face uphill battle in expected appeal Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Senate confirms Gupta nomination in tight vote MORE (R-Texas)? Former majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhen it comes to Georgia's voting law, keep politics out of business Pelosi to offer even split on 9/11-style commission to probe Capitol riot Senate GOP crafts outlines for infrastructure counter proposal MORE (R-Ky.) was workmanlike in pushing the Trump White House agenda. And how has the former president acknowledged the legacy of that work? By calling McConnell a “political hack.” That’s a stretch by even the harshest of McConnell’s critics.   

On the flip side, another large component of Trump’s platform from the start was his pledge to “drain the swamp.” It now should be clear to everyone that, in Trump’s eyes, draining the swamp wasn’t meant to apply only to entrenched Democrats. Instead, it applies to any politician who doesn’t support his “America First” or “MAGA” agenda, regardless of how they identify politically. Frankly, this should surprise no one.

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These are hard things to say, but they need to be said. Politics is an equation of addition, not subtraction. Yet we have a former president who seemingly is doing nothing to grow the Republican Party through definable, constructive activities. Instead we see an unrepentant, dogmatic man who — let’s not forget — was a registered Democrat until he ran for office. 

During his presidency, and even more so now, it became clear that Trump cares only about those who support his singularly defined agenda. He will easily lash out at anyone who strays from his guild, regardless of their political affiliation. This may be why he gained as much support as he did: To Trump and the 74 million Americans who voted for him, his populist “movement” was not about being Republican or Democrat. The Republican Party simply seemed to be the most fitting vessel to deliver his agenda. 

Republicans would do well to note this season of Donald Trump, one that no longer wields definable political authority but clearly retains power. Power over what? A groundswell of voices who are angry, frustrated, confused, disillusioned and hungry for true direction from elected leaders. 

In hindsight, what will be chronicled as the single greatest miss of the Trump presidency was his inability, likely because of his divisive rhetoric, to harness such a movement to return America to its best days.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”