Get Ready for Trump, the Shadow President
Trump could make a play to become “president-in-exile,” and the media will likely eat it up.
We know for a fact President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 election, but I don’t think Donald Trump is going anywhere.
Over the last two weeks and change, the Trump has refused to acknowledge that he lost the election, instead stoking conspiracy theories and latching onto half-baked legal challenges in a desperate attempt to maintain legitimacy.
With his party and many key government officials marching in virtual lockstep behind him, what the president is attempting to do could have rightfully been called a coup.
But late Monday, the General Services Administration declared Biden as the official winner and signed off on beginning the presidential transition of power. While seemingly everyone assumed Trump would rather be dragged out of the White House, Trump signaled that he supported the GSA decision, for the first time, it seems, implicitly acknowledging he did not win a second term in office. It’s clear Trump is looking at a transition of his own — into a president-in-exile.
Trump’s reign for the last four years has often earned his administration the moniker, “the reality show presidency,” and there’s no reason to believe the show will stop once he leaves office. He’s fallen in love with the large rally crowds and the media attention which has come along with the bully pulpit. But he’s also relied on the power of the presidency, and the support of conservatives and GOP lawmakers, to fend off investigations into his own malfeasance. He’ll lose that official cover once he leaves office, a matter over which he’s apparently losing sleep, according to a Washington Post report earlier this week.
But Trump can still leverage the political power of his large supporter base by carrying on his sideshow Twitter antics, transforming himself into the de facto leader of the Biden opposition. Trump has already suggested he plans to run for president again in 2024 and rumors have been floated that he may start his own cable news channel or Fox News may pay out to hire him. This way he can continue to hold his beloved rallies, and manipulate the national politics reporters who have devoted the last four years of their lives to extensively reporting the president’s every word, deed, and tweet.
Trump has primed the nation for his exile by insisting without evidence the election was stolen from him. That, along with his solid supporter base, would prime him for his new role as opposition leader.
A power vacuum typically occurs in the losing party once a presidential election is over; losing candidates are usually swept away for fresh faces. But even though Republican lawmakers have privately grumbled about him for years, no one has shown any ambition for succeeding Trump as de facto party leader. Anyone seeking to do so would have to find a way to win over Trump supporters, which would likely take getting Trump’s personal approval. This might be why no GOP lawmakers have publicly broken with the president, they’re waiting for him to disappear so they can scoop up his supporter base.
Trump can usurp that process by immediately launching another presidential run for 2024. He can also leverage his armed supporter base against potential future criminal charges in district court.
From his new presidential-pretender perch, he can continue to fire off half-baked tweets on whatever is happening politically, or whatever the latest right-wing media obsession is. His supporters will continue to worship in a way that no one ever did with former failed presidential candidates Al Gore, John McCain, or Mitt Romney.
If there’s one thing we learned from the Trump presidency, it’s that the show must go on. There’s no reason to believe that will change once he leaves the White House. Gird your loins for more of his schtick.