For many Trump supporters, it was his policies that mattered. We suffered and endured his behavior, just as much as anyone else. Indeed, the headline in one Wall Street Journal oped read “The Only Good Thing About Donald Trump is All His Policies.”
Now, we can have his policies without his boorishness, and without the unfair vitriolic anti-Trump diatribes from the left, most of the media and from Republican Never-Trumpers. Trump inspired a whole cadre of impressive Republican presidential prospects, someone of whom is likely to carry the day in 2024 and carry his policies into the future, albeit with different possible successors having different notions of “all policies.”
On the policy front, we should remember that Trump brought sea change. Recall that when Trump burst upon the scene in 2016, NATO nations were underspending on defense to the point of not honoring their treaty obligations, mercantilist Communist China was destroying the U.S. manufacturing sector, the southern border was porous (yet, not wide open as it is today after Biden undid what Trump accomplished), the Beltway was playing pussyfoot with Tehran over a faux nuclear deal (for which, amazingly, Biden and his tribune John Kerry have restarted negotiations), the economy was anemic; Israel and its Arab enemies were still mired in their half-century-plus hostile stand-off; employment and wage levels for Black Americans continued to lag, as they had for eons. I could go on.
Donald Trump changed all that, or at least pointed the way to the change needed. It could not have been done politely; too many oxen were gored. He chastised German President Angela Merkel to her face for the disaster that the woefully underfunded, ill equipped and undermanned German military still is today and for the stupidity of overreliance on Russian gas. She deserved it, and Trump has been vindicated. Yet, Trump went too far behaviorally; he reveled in his boorishness.
When he was fighting back bravely against patently unfair opposition, including the Russia collusion myth, his supporters rightfully enjoyed his withering destruction of liars such as Congressman Adam Schiff and ex-CIA chief John Brennan. When he made fun of a handicapped New York Times reporter, we shuddered.
Nevertheless, his policy successes converted early Never-Trumpers, such as Rich Lowry at National Review who praised the southern border policy that Trump developed and installed in a masterful execution of effective foreign policy. Lost on anti-Trumpers, for example, is that Remain in Mexico kept parents together with their children in Mexico, unlike the separation that occurred once in the U.S. under both Obama and early Trump.
More significantly, he and his policies attracted impressive talent into his administration — Mike Pompeo at CIA and, then, at State, and Nikki Haley at the U.N., to name two. He developed real support in Congress and among the nation’s governors, including now-Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
That brings us to the real change effected by Trump, the development of a deep bench of talented Republicans to carry his policies forward. Abbott is challenging very effectively and dramatically the hypocrisy of sanctuary-city mayors such as New York’s Eric Adams, who was happy to promote sanctuary status until Abbott bussed tens of thousands of illegal immigrants to New York City. Abbott has been tough as steel and smooth as silk in dramatizing the crisis and tragedy at the southern border and exposing the NIMBY nature of open-borders supporters such as Adams..
First-time politician Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has defended parental rights in the battle over whether school curriculum should be woke or not, as has DeSantis in Florida whose overwhelming re-election victory demonstrates that Floridians understand that Florida’s law banning gender identity instruction from pre-K to third grade is nothing like the “don’t-say-gay” ban that hysterical progressives say it is.
These youngsters are simply too young to be aware of, or absorb “instruction” about, anything sexual. And that doesn’t even begin the debate over who should have primacy over social or cultural issues – school administrators or parents.
Many Trump supporters remain genuinely appreciative of the changes Donald Trump brought about, both in the policy arena during his administration and in inspiring potential successors now poised to carry his policies into the future.
Donald Trump should be proud of both, despite that he was denied a second term. Many change agents are unrecoverable casualties of the changes they bring about, as is Trump. His post 2020 behavior didn’t help. Some second acts are simply not feasible.
Republicans should look toward 2024 with great optimism given the strong cadre of GOP hopefuls, anyone of whom would be an enormous improvement over the current White House occupant, whose deficiencies even most Democrats recognize and bemoan. Absent Trump’s boorishness and the left’s anti-Trump hysteria, his Republican successor is likely to attract even more adherents to Trump’s successful and far-sighted policies.
Red Jahncke is a nationally recognized columnist, who writes about politics and policy. His columns appear in numerous national publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, Issues & Insights and National Review as well as many Connecticut newspapers.