Many in the GOP thought for years Trumpism or his unique brand of populism was unique to him. He should be worried as that could change:
The question of “Trumpism Without Trump,” or possibly “Trumpism After Trump,” has been occasionally raised, especially after the defeat of Donald Trump in 2020. Trump appears to have made such an impact on the Republican Party that candidates up and down the ballot have not only sought the ex-president’s support but have sought to behave like him as well.
However, most other candidates aren’t as good at executing the Donald Trump style of politics as he is, leading to frequent Republican losses in winnable races the last few election cycles- and there are also signs that Trump himself isn’t as good at it as he used to be.
David A. Graham, in a column for The Atlantic a few months back, looked at how that will work, with the many candidates in 2024 either coming from the Trump Administration or having a history as endorsees of the former president.
“For years, pundits have discussed the possibility of a Trumpism without Trump, and largely concluded that it was a chimera,” Graham writes. “As a result, the odds that another candidate could effectively run on this platform—much less that it could create the organizing basis for an entire political party—seemed very slim.”
But now, candidates and potential candidates like Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are running their own versions of the Trump playbook, possibly against Trump himself. It appears their bet is that they can pursue many of the policies of the Trump Administration, including adapting much of Trump’s culture war playbook, while at the same time not retaining much of the baggage that Trump brings to the table.
“The emergence of candidates flogging Trumpism without Trump doesn’t mean it will be successful with voters. Donald Trump has lost the national popular vote twice, and no one would argue that DeSantis…brings anything near the natural charisma (and preexisting profile) that Trump did to the race,” Graham writes.
The idea seems to be that while many Republicans may be ready to move on from Trump himself, a full-on repudiation of the ideological project of Trumpism appears unlikely to appeal to large swathes of the Republican electorate. And of course, no one knows what will happen once Trump and his opponents get on a debate stage.
Therefore, it appears unlikely that full-on never-Trumpers like former Rep. Liz Cheney or former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will gain much traction in a Republican nominating contest.
Polls have been wildly uneven so far this election cycle, with the start of the voting nearly a year away. One Suffolk University poll late last year, which had DeSantis ahead of Trump, specifically stated that post-Trump Trumpism was likely to rise.
“There’s a new Republican sheriff in town,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in the release of that December poll. “DeSantis outpolls Trump not only among the general electorate but also among these Republican-leaning voters who have been the former president’s base. Republicans and conservative independents increasingly want Trumpism without Trump.”
Back in the spring of 2022, FiveThirtyEight also looked at the Trumpism Without Donald Trump question.
“In the last few years, a number of ambitious politicians have established a national name for themselves by claiming the Trumpist mantle — all while offering voters their own interpretations of Trump-style conservatism,” that site said.
“This group includes governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia; senators like Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri; and even erstwhile members of the Trump administration like former Vice President Mike Pence and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.”
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.