The recent election of Republican Glenn Youngkin to be governor in Democratic stronghold Virginia displays emphatically that Trump conservatism fares better — without Trump. The conundrum for Republican Party leaders, a weak lot, is how to double down on this fact in 2022, and keep former President Donald Trump off the ticket in 2024.
Youngkin upset former Democratic Virginia Governor and national Democratic Party leader Terry McAuliffe by capturing significantly greater percentages of independent as well as women voters than did Trump in 2020 — while apparently keeping the support of the Trump base.
This suggests strongly that campaigning on Trump-like issues while downplaying connections to Trump could help the GOP take back a sizable majority in the House in 2022 and win the presidency in 2024 — without Trump.
An anti-Trump Republican, I find much of the Trump program positive, straightforward:
• Make “Made in America” great again.
• Orderly immigration.
• Stand up to China.
• Strengthen the American family.
• Safe streets.
I would add “fiscal integrity,” something out of favor in both the Trump and Biden administrations.
Yet the man himself is a pathological narcissist, dangerously obsessed with self; everything else — everything — is subservient.
But, as is obvious, Trump dominates the Republican Party right now. After all, he was there to speak loudly for his base in 2016 and 2020, while the GOP before him had only mealy-mouthed nostrums to offer.
The Trump base may have been rallied to come out for Youngkin — even though the governor-elect rarely mentioned him — because opponent McAuliffe incessantly advertised a Trump-Youngkin connection, which was in fact rather weak.
And, can dissatisfaction with the Democrats’ big spending, quite liberal messaging be enough alone to bring out Trump voters, if Trump is not front and center?
Related, what can GOP leaders at the national and state levels do, if anything, to keep the Trump excitement alive — without Trump?
Maybe nothing, which would be tragic.
Or, maybe the following:
• The “chattering class,” even those like me with small megaphones, hammers away, as follows: Trumpism does better without Trump. Over time, the message might bring some Trump backers to conclude this as well, and;
• GOP leaders quietly encourage even-keeled political types like Youngkin to contest congressional seats next year in many suburban districts across the country. Dems are vulnerable in the ’burbs, and Trump is far less popular there than in rural and small-town America. If highly successful next year in the suburbs, the GOP would send a strong message to all that to win in 2024, do it with a Trump-like platform — but without Trump.
Even this might not be enough to dislodge The Donald from candidacy, yet I feel it must be tried. After all, GOP party leaders, and even the Trump base, I would hope, want to win, even if just on the issues, even without Trump.