Practical considerations are built into most political calculations. Even candidates who compel and persuade, with ideological zeal or soaring rhetoric, are bound to the most mundane and the most practical considerations. The Democrats especially have been bound to practical considerations. Who is the most electable candidate, they ask. Or, who is most capable of beating Trump. Arguably, President Biden became the Democratic frontrunner in 2020 on the strength of the argument that he was the most practical option, the guy most likely to unseat Trump.
Biden knows it, too, that’s why he’s playing it back for 2024 – rolling out a campaign with messaging that is indiscernible from 2020. Similarly, practical considerations are impeding Biden’s reelection chances. Is Biden too old, many wonder. Will he survive a second term? It doesn’t get much more practical than that.
The Republican mainstreamers are practical, too, although the GOP is beholden to a base that is less practically motivated and more susceptible to emotional decision-making. I’m referring to MAGA, of course, a voting bloc that wields its political influence without much care for what makes the most sense, or what the technocrats in Washington think will work.
MAGA, for all their faults, seem to follow their heart and their gut (however misguided those compasses may be), which may be why you don’t hear all that much about the practical considerations that should be impeding Donald Trump’s 2024 candidacy: Trump is term limited. And would be a lame duck for half of his remaining term.
Trump Term Limited
Trump is the only GOP candidate who has previously served as president, meaning he is limited to just one more term, whereas the other candidates are eligible for two terms. I’m stating the obvious, yet the fact doesn’t seem to come up very often. Challengers target Trump for his brashness, or for his electability, but never mention that the guy has only one term of eligibility remaining.
The practical reality of Trump’s term limit is that (should Trump be reelected) the GOP will be more vulnerable in 2028 than if they were able to reload an incumbent president for a second term bid. Incumbent presidents enter an election with a statistical advantage; typically, the incumbent wins reelection (obviously, as Trump can tell you, that doesn’t always work out but you get the idea). Basically, one of the primary advantages of winning a presidential election is the occupation of the White House.
The occupant needs to be unseated, which is an implicit advantage to the individual and to the individual’s party. If Trump is elected, the GOP will functionally cede the advantage of the “high ground” in the 2028 election – which would be a 2016, or 2008 style mad dash to fill the vacuum.
Trump the Lame Duck
Similarly, if Trump were elected he would become a lame duck halfway through the term. Really, the Republicans wouldn’t be getting much bang for their buck in electing Trump. I’d propose that being a lame duck has its advantages, in that the lame duck elected official is able to break free of the constraints of reelection concerns, and operate authentically. But Trump has been doing that for a long time – acting as if he didn’t care about being reelected, speaking his mind, etc. I don’t think being a lame duck is going to influence Trump’s behavior all that much.
Maybe Trump just transcends practical considerations. Maybe that’s what makes him different from other politicians. Whatever the reason, Trump is the GOP frontrunner heading into the primary, whether he’s term limited or not.
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 listens to Dokken.
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