Donald Trump remains the most polarizing figure in politics. Even in defeat, Trump still sucks energy and oxygen from his detractors. Many still lose their minds. Trump remains beloved by many loyal supporters. A state Trump won twice, North Carolina, has been good to the former president. It’s a major reason he’s lending his brand to Republicans here by speaking at the state convention in Greenville on June 5. After all, Trump won 76 of the state’s 100 counties in 2016 and 2020. Despite being an unorthodox president and a one-termer; there are plenty of lessons conservatives must remember from Trump going forward.
In his historic 2016 presidential campaign, not only did Trump bring in new voters to the Republican Party, but he expanded the electoral map in ways not seen since the Reagan era. He succeeded on the campaign trail by helping rebrand Republicans as a party of the forgotten man by championing those detached from elite institutions and culture.
The lesson to glean should be one of authenticity and commitment to conservative principles. While Trump strayed from recent Republican orthodoxy on a few issues, mainly trade, he was successful again at elevating reforms only dreamed of by Republicans. Predictably panned by the media, Trump’s 2020 Mt. Rushmore Address remains one of the best speeches in defense of America’s founding principles. Not surprisingly, Trump revealed once again his courage to take on the forces of corporate media, the cancel culture movement, and the chaotic and destructive forces of modern illiberalism. While Trump often remains undisciplined, when he is focused like in his Mt. Rushmore address, few can elevate blunt truths against the eloquent lies of the left as he does.
This commitment to fighting the left and taking so many proverbial body blows for red-state voters is a reason he remains so popular with Republicans. That Trump is a fighter or political street brawler almost feels like an understatement by itself.
That’s a hard trait to fake, and folks will continually argue if Trump has been faking for a host of reasons. After all, Trump had previously affiliated with several political parties, including being identified as a New York Democrat. Still, tens of millions of Americans bought into his “Make America Great Again” agenda. And to the consternation of so many, Trump’s still a contender for the White House again if he wants it.
Yet, many Republicans and conservatives would just assume not to see Trump as a presidential candidate again. Still, for Republicans, it’s better having Trump in the tent than being outside the tent. Of course, LBJ had a much crasser example of this saying that some readers will recall.
Most of all, Trump remains a powerful reminder the federal government is broken, and many Americans feel disconnected from Washington. It’s a swamp, as he so fondly reminds the American people. Even though many Americans and much of the media liked to blame Trump, working-class whites, or the Republicans for his presidency, it remains a chief reason for his continued relevancy.
Trump’s legacy and influence are on full display in North Carolina as 2022 Republican congressional and U.S. Senate candidates trip over themselves to be photographed with him, praise him, and incessantly mention the former president. If conservatives and Republicans are ever successful at shifting power away from Washington, they may have Trump to thank, though. Despite his many political missteps and unusual antics, perhaps nobody is doing more to remind Republicans that they can no longer be disconnected from their voters. That lesson by itself offers a huge advantage going forward.
Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor.