Now that President Trump has left office, it is important that the next Republican presidential nominee learn from his successes as well as his failures.
For all of their differences, Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan became nationally famous before either of them entered politics.
At a time when the media are overwhelming liberal, and unfair, to conservatives, one of the lessons of the Trump era should be that conservative candidates need to define themselves before the liberal media try to destroy them.
In 2012, Mitt Romney ran for president as a successful businessman.
Because Romney was famous only after he entered politics, the media were able to define him in the worst possible ways.
When Trump ran for president, voters didn’t need to read The New York Times, or watch CNN, because they knew him.
By 2015, Donald Trump had been developing his brand for 30 years.
On top of his successful career in New York real estate, he frequently appeared on television. He appeared in several movies as himself. When Mike Tyson was dominating the heavyweight division in the late 1980s, Donald Trump hosted some of his most memorable fights in Atlantic City, including his victories over Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks in 1988.
During the professional wrestling boom of the 1980s, when Hulkamania was at its peak, Donald Trump hosted WrestleMania IV (1988) and WrestleMania V (1989). In 2007, he was also part of a memorable storyline in the "Battle of the Billionaires."
Long before he hosted his show "The Apprentice" (2004-2015), Trump regularly appeared on news programs as an expert in business on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
At one point, "The Apprentice" had over 20 million viewers.
We are going to need the next Republican nominee to learn from Trump’s success.
In 2016, Trump survived the worst beating any public figure ever received. He survived because the American people got to know him over 30 years. Whether they liked or hated him, the voters didn’t rely on the media to inform them.
Donald Trump’s mastery of Twitter also helped send his message over the media’s head and allowed him to control the narrative. That said, it wasn’t just that he had an entertaining personality.
As Reihan Salam wrote in the 2016 election, ''Having recognized this chasm separating the Republican donor class from the grassroots, Trump has exploited it brilliantly.
He has defended entitlement programs, and he has bashed bankers. He has defied the elite consensus on trade and immigration.''
In other words, the Republicans need a middle class message.
From 1968 to 1988, the Republicans won the popular vote in 5 out of 6 elections. The Republican presidential nominees averaged 52.5% of the popular vote from 1968 to 1988.
From 1992 to 2020, the Republicans lost the popular vote in 7 out of 8 elections and Republicans nominees only averaged 45.3% vote.
In the last eight elections, the Democrats have averaged 49% of the popular vote.
In the 1980s, the Republicans responded to middle class concerns like rising crime and double-digit inflation.
Now, we need a party that will deal with the middle class concerns of the 2020s.
The next Republican nominee would benefit if they learn from Trump's successes as a master of branding, social media, and understanding our popular culture.
At the same time, we cannot ignore his weaknesses.
Donald Trump defeated the establishment wing of the Republican Party.
Once he got elected, instead of hiring people that would implement an agenda for the middle class, he hired a number of establishment Republicans who were against his agenda.
If you read Bob Woodward’s book "Fear: Trump in the White House," it provides several stories of how President Trump’s top aides were deliberately opposed to his agenda, especially on trade, immigration and foreign policy.
This list includes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Gary Cohn of the National Economic Council, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Miles Taylor, chief of staff to the secretary of Homeland Security, wrote in The New York Times, and later a book, where he anonymously declared that he was part of the resistance within the administration. Some of the people who left the Trump White House have become vocal critics such as Anthony Scaramucci and Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Dr. Sebastian Gorka, who worked in the Trump administration as a deputy assistant to the president, said recently that he knew people in the White House who were Never Trumpers.
Dr. Gorka believed that there were only 20 people in senior positions who were supportive of the Make America Great Again (MAGA) agenda. Anyone who took a job to undermine any president should never serve in the White House again.
Before Reagan was elected, conservatives had the think tanks like the Heritage Foundation that were ready to fill the administration with conservatives that shared Reagan’s domestic agenda.
On foreign policy, Reagan was a member of the Committee on the Present Danger.
Reagan hired 33 of his fellow members into the administration, including a number of Democrats.
The next Republican president will need to define himself before the media does, have a middle class agenda, and hire people who are loyal to a middle class agenda.
Another thing I learned from the Trump presidency is the importance of a patriotic opposition. A patriotic opposition does not concoct a conspiracy theory about Russian collusion.
A patriotic opposition works with the president in areas, where possible.
During President Biden’s term, Republicans would well advised to work with him on getting the vaccine distributed as fast as possible.
Good luck, President Biden.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. For several years Robert worked closely with Peter Hannaford, a senior aide to Ronald Reagan, as the primary researcher on four books and numerous columns. Robert has also worked on multiple presidential, national and statewide campaigns, including as a field office staffer for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Due to his own Russian-Jewish heritage, Robert has a keen interest in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations. In 2017 he was the co-organizer of an effort that erected a commemorative statue of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. Robert graduated with a major in Political Science from the University at Buffalo, and received his Master's in Public Administration, with a focus in healthcare, from the State University of New York College at Brockport. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in Rochester, New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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