What goes up must come down. It is a law of human power politics as much as it is a law of nature. Empires rise and decline, and sometimes even collapse. Great powers ascend and descend in the international system, wielding different power at different times. Likewise, the power of specific people rises and falls. Charisma is variable. Strength is never constant. Leaders of politics, business, entertainment, and so on will find themselves wielding different power at different times. Donald Trump is a perfect case study of this phenomenon. He rose, fell, and now faces a final defeat, where he has no power at all. How did we get here?
The Rise and Fall of President Trump
From the summer of 2015 to March of 2020, Donald Trump was the undisputed hegemon of the Republican Party and the leading figure in American politics. He conquered the GOP with surprise, speed, and overwhelming action. In his first three years as President, he powered through all the media-driven “crises” like an armored juggernaut.
But then a long-range bombardment in the form of the Chinese coronavirus stopped Trump’s advance in its tracks. His appointment of Anthony Fauci as his new front-line commander was the mistake that sealed his fate. In 2020, he suffered defeat after defeat, from the lockdown hysteria that destroyed his economy, to the BLM riots, to the change in election procedures he was clearly unprepared for. His sore-loserdom after the election, culminating in the avoidable disaster of January 6th, was the final defeat that sent him into exile. An “insurrection” it was not, but it further tarnished his personal brand, though not the Republican Party’s.
Now, we clearly see the fissures between Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and its voters. From June 2015 to November 2020, those interests were aligned. The party needed to shed its descent into nostalgic impotency and then reverse or at least delay the advances of the left. He allowed at least some of that to happen, but failed miserably in 2020 and lost governing power in the process, leaving the country worse off than before he ran.
His empire was teetering.
The Exile in Mar-a-Lago
Having lost the war of March 2020-January 2021, Donald Trump was sent into exile in Florida. Out of the White House, he needed to find a way to maintain relevancy, despite having lost an election and with growing skepticism over his position in the Republican Party from its own base, thanks to his 2020 performance.
He was a defeated man, but it was not in his character to see it as a Waterloo. Still, to keep the remaining power that he had and obtain the new base of power he would require to fight a new campaign, he needed to make the most of his exile. That meant using his diminished resources wisely. The question he needed to ask himself was: how would he be able to reinforce his authority in the party and get out in front as the obvious 2024 nominee?
He would first need to use the authority of his name and his political infrastructure to get results for the Republican Party. Second, he had to translate these smaller wins into the foundation of a new campaign, thinking forward. This not what he has done. Instead, he has spent the bulk of his time crying about the 2020 election and punishing members of his own party for not doing so.
You can believe all the fraud claims you want. For tech censorship reasons alone, the election of 2020 was the shadiest since 1876. That doesn’t mean harping about it is good persuasion. By definition, leadership is about thinking and moving forward, not backward. Donald Trump did this in 2016. Back then, he dared to go where others were too cowardly to move. As I’ve said elsewhere, this is not the case now. Donald Trump has been behind the curve on covid mandates, redistricting, the fights against woke capital, gender-bending lunacy, making proper endorsements, and a lot more. Ron DeSantis and others have taken up this work, as Donald Trump spends his exile settling personal scores and creating a circle of sycophants that won’t cross him or give him bad news, all the while stretching his limited resources beyond their breaking point. The result is that his influence is diminishing quickly. The proof will come this year, as votes get cast.
Trump’s Coming Defeats
What do I mean by “stretching his resources beyond their breaking point?” I mean he has been too eager to go everywhere with his depleted political capital. He is trying to get himself involved in every race he can. The problem is that it’s like trying to fight a war on dozens of fronts. Your resources get stretched thin, but your prestige is at stake on every front.
When this is combined with Trump’s conduct and diminished influence, it asks for an embarrassment. The revocation of his endorsement of the struggling Mo Brooks for Senate in Alabama is just the tip of the iceberg. His weakness is coming to the fore and it will show very soon, in the form of the Republican primaries.
Some of the former President’s other endorsements are struggling. He could retreat from Alabama without losing too much face, but he cannot retreat everywhere, because the more places he retreats from, the weaker he will appear. Pay close attention to the Governor and Senate races he’s tried to be a part of, and also the House races involving the handful of Republicans that voted to impeach him the second time. Anything less than a strong record in these races would end his status as hegemon of the Republican Party.
There is one place in particular which will prove his Stalingrad: Georgia.
Donald Trump cannot retreat from Georgia because he has invested so much of his energy and honor in that state. He blames Brian Kemp for costing him the election there. His ego demands that Kemp lose so that he can get revenge and make an example of him, to reinforce his image as someone for Republicans not to cross. The problem is that his candidate, former Senator David Perdue, is not doing well and likely to lose the primary. If he does, the word will unmistakably be out.
Perception is power and perception is tied with momentum. Emotional states are contagious. If Donald Trump loses his proxy battle in Georgia, the chance that he will lose other proxy battles grows geometrically.
Sun Tzu’s Conclusion
Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory. (4.15)
In 2015-16, Donald Trump was well ahead of this, and if he wasn’t as far ahead of this from 2017-19, his enemies were still far behind him. Things changed in March 2020. It has only gotten worse since. The former President has been reactive, rather than proactive, the entire time.
A smarter strategy would have been to marshal his limited resources and associate them with select popular causes, such as getting rid of Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, or holding weak Republicans to account on redistricting. Even if defeated, it would at least have been seen as a noble cause by the Republican base.
Yet, he has not done this. He has instead stretched himself thin everywhere in attempts to settle personal scores and suck up screen time. It has not been effective, it looks like it will cost him, and will accelerate the trend of Republican voters looking elsewhere for leadership as his sun sets.
This is a bold prediction, I know. If I’m wrong, we’ll find out soon enough. Yet, Donald Trump’s behavior has not given me reason to think I’m wrong. One gets the growing sense that Republican voters are appreciative of him and his presidency, but are looking toward the future, not the past.
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Character determines fate. The pathological need to be loved was Trump’s worst flaw. For more on this reality of human nature, read Lives of the Luminaries.
Meanwhile, The Fall of the Fated Queen’s fifth chapter is also out. Here’s a synopsis:
Our protagonist tries to get the reinforcements he promised his detractors in order for them to let him fight in the coming conflict. There’s only one problem – the deal he makes means he will need to solve the pirate problem in the area – without any troops of his own.
You can find it here: “The Death Robot”