Despite the fact that the shadow of Trump does not stop hovering over the Republican candidates and overshadowing their electoral programs, there is a broad understanding that the figure of the former president continues to be key to winning the party’s primaries.
In 2016, a media hurricane broke out that changed the American political scene. Seven years later, in 2023, Donald Trump once again monopolizes the attention of the world press.
This time, not only because of his controversial term as president, but because of his ongoing criminal -and civil- trials and his controversial intention to return and compete in the 2024 presidential elections.
The former president remains a magnet for the media and a point of reference in the political conversation within the Republican Party.
In a remote interview with Scott Lucas, a professor of American Politics at the University of Birmingham, he brings up Trump’s memorable statement during the 2016 election campaign.
Lucas points out that there are, in fact, some Americans who would back the former president no matter the circumstances.
Trump’s insistence on his innocence and his allegations of being the victim of a media witch hunt have found an echo among his followers. Instead of abandoning him, his supporters have become even more committed to his cause.
But Greg Swenson, president of the organization ‘Republicans Abroad in the United Kingdom’, warns that although the Trumpists remain aligned with the MAGA (Make America Great Again) project, the possibility of a criminal conviction or simply the accusations have eroded. his position in the broader Republican spectrum.
“In the primary process it is clearly helping him, but the trials and indictments are probably hurting him more than helping him in the general election. It is also diverting attention from the other candidates,” says Swenson.
“In the debate on Wednesday night in Wisconsin, six Republican candidates out of eight said: ‘Look, even if he is convicted, I support him being president.’ And it is that the political calculation for almost all the candidates is that if you say that Trump does not should take office, you lose any chance of getting Trump’s votes. And that’s been the phenomenon of the Republican Party since Trump became president in 2016,” says the professor, who highlights the role of the media in perpetuating of Trump’s dominance in the political narrative.
Trump and his persistent media dominance
Lucas argues that the constant media attention around Trump “creates a feedback loop.”
“What happens is that the media pays all the attention to Trump. If only the media would really level the playing field in terms of coverage of the candidates and the issues, instead of treating this like a circus with Donald Trump as emcee, then you could have a true democratic process rather than one where the media effectively enables Trump’s attempt to anoint himself as a Republican candidate,” Lucas said.
Neither Trump nor Biden for
Despite Trump’s continued influence in the Republican primaries, there is a growing sentiment in the nation that it is time to look ahead.
Trump’s shadow, though long, has not stopped large numbers of US citizens from yearning for a drastic change of course. Swenson points out that three-quarters of American voters want to avoid a repeat of the contest between Trump and Biden. This figure includes both Republicans and Democrats, suggesting widespread demand for new faces and perspectives in politics.
Swenson speculates that even within the Republican Party, if President Biden does not run, many might consider it time to move on. The prospect of running against a younger, fresher Democrat could influence the Republican dynamic. This reflects a shift in the national mood toward the search for new political alternatives and the desire to move away from the polarization that characterized the Trump era.