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What If Donald Trump Somehow Wins in 2024?

Donald Trump. Creative Commons Image.
Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2022 Student Action Summit at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

Former president, and 2024 presidential candidate, Donald Trump may never get to serve a second term. Trump is embroiled in scandal, and hemorrhaging popularity as GOP rivals are posturing for succession.

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The premise of Trump winning back the White House is beginning to seem like a pipe dream.

But counting Trump out would be foolish, wouldn’t it?

Given Trump’s resiliency and ignorance, we can expect him to run doggedly for reelection. Trump has pulled off upsets before (2016).

Perhaps he could do so again.

If Trump were to win a second term, he would enter that term-limited, “lame duck” territory rather quickly – which would theoretically modify his political behavior.

But Trump’s political behavior is already aberrant.

So, what would a second term of Donald Trump look like?

Second Term Presidents

Ever since the 22nd amendment was ratified in 1951, presidents have been limited to two terms.

The result has been a second-term president who is constitutionally barred from seeking reelection and hence possesses less political power (theoretically) – and less fear of consequence (theoretically).

Second-term presidents are known for loosening up a little, and following their own agenda, with less concern for the political spin; the term-limited president is freed from the constraints of seeking reelection.

Sometimes the effect can be positive. Barack Obama, for example, finally endorsed gay rights during his second term, when he wasn’t worried about alienating moderate swing voters in battleground Rust Belt states.

Sometimes, the “freeing” of a term limit can have a negative effect. Bill Clinton, for example, used his final hours in office to issue 140 pardons. Some of the pardons – especially the pardon of Clinton’s friend and financial criminal Marc Rich, were deeply controversial.

A Second-Term Donald Trump

Would a second term “free” Trump in a way that exacerbates his already existing tendencies?

Trump already flouts convention. Trump already operates without concern for the health of the larger GOP.

And Trump already adheres to a largely personal agenda. So, as far as behavior is concerned, Trump may operate similarly in a second term as he did in the first. I think the more interesting question is whether a second term Trump lose political power.

One would think that if Trump were to win a second term and become ineligible for reelection in the process, the GOP would finally, finally begin to seek a Trump alternative.

Trump has dominated the GOP since he won the 2016 primary, using an iron-fist approach to quell opposition and force conformity.

For the most part, the GOP has adhered obediently, with sycophantism, to Trump’s wishes and guidance.

Granted, Trump appears to be losing his vice grip on the GOP, allowing conservatives to poke their heads up and consider challenging Trump for the GOP nomination.

But in our hypothetical, Trump wins the 2024 GOP nomination and the presidential election, suggesting that his hold on the GOP extends a little longer, through the primaries and into his hypothetical second term.

But how long could Trump’s hold on the GOP last through a second term?

Well, Donald Trump is already a messianic figure in the eyes of many right-wing constituents; Trump could continue to possess outsized influence over public opinion, even once term limited.

Accordingly, Trump could retain political power in a way that other, less cult-like presidents have not been able.

I’m not expecting Trump to win a second term. But if Trump did win a second term, it will be curious to see whether his hold on the GOP weakens.    

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.