While the name Donald Trump may not often find itself alongside FDR in analyses, there’s an intriguing parallel to consider. Trump now finds himself with the opportunity to secure the presidential nomination for his party thrice consecutively, a feat only managed by Roosevelt from 1932 to 1944 when he landed the Democratic nomination four times back-to-back.
Two-term limits introduced by the 22nd Amendment make this a rare scenario, only arising due to Trump failing to secure re-election in 2020. We can only imagine scenarios where figures like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, were all successful incumbents, being given a third shot at nomination. It’s not unthinkable that they could have wrapped up their nominations with relative ease.
At first glance, Trump’s ability to maintain such political clout might be summarized as simply him being a proficient politician, an assessment often overlooked. Granted, there are several facets to Trump that are undeniably unique, both for better or worse.
His propensity for name-calling and creating his independent, often fact-resistant reality, his disregard for established norms, the repeated bouts of disagreement with his own staff — all these have come to be seen as Trump’s distinctive (sometimes detrimental) hallmarks. These characteristics can often hurt his cause, and not uncommonly, the broader interests of his party and nation.
Receive a FREE Gift for Subscribing to the Newsletter!
There’s an argument to be made that had Trump modulated his presidential demeanor, played a more traditional role, he would likely be finishing up a second term today. This failure to court the moderate electorate did no favors for his campaign in 2020, and it threatens to handicap his possible run in 2024, should he secure the Republican nomination once more.
Political pundits often attribute the unwavering loyalty of a sizable segment of the Republican Party toward Trump to an irrational devotion to the former president. It’s widely acknowledged that his core supporters are prone to defending almost any action he takes, often spinning intricate, sometimes contradictory, justifications for his conduct.
However, it’s essential not to lose sight of the fact, for whatever reasons, Trump proved to be the most effective candidate in 2016, and he may well turn out to be the strongest in the 2024 race as well.
Beyond the characteristic Trumpian flare is a politician acutely aware of the classical attributes of political leadership and graft. A strong sense of charisma and authority is perhaps more critical in politics than journalism, and Trump, having headlined in business, TV, and politics, is a veteran at commanding attention, a skill not easily taught or learned.
A politician’s ability to draw the spotlight and exude personal magnetism has held importance since the advent of mass media, and it bears some weight when we talk about a political figure’s potential success.
A case in point is Ronald Reagan’s prior stardom as a film personality. Barack Obama, while not from an entertainment background, was often dismissed as a ‘celebrity’ by his Republican counterparts due to his meteoric rise and ardent followers.
In the company of other politicians, Trump’s charisma is reminiscent of the ‘presence’ attributed to Elvis Presely by Eddie Murphy. As Murphy described it, ‘When Elvis walked into a room, Elvis Presley was in the room.’ Similar can be said about Trump.
In addition to his magnetic persona, Trump also has an affable approachability. His propensity for conversation often makes other extroverts appear reserved. Known for his accessibility while in the White House, he is willing to engage readily in conversation with anyone.
As a long-time business owner, he is seasoned at the art of entertaining guests and has the ability to make people feel at ease. A quality that, paired with his charismatic persona, makes for a successful politician.
Trump has demonstrated a knack for making individuals feel valued just before he directs the conversation towards his favourite topic, himself and his wants. His relative success in securing endorsements when compared with the rest of the GOP field can be attributed, in part, to his willingness to engage and lobby for himself.
Repetition is also a significant part of establishing a political brand. Some politicians struggle with this, but it’s a predicament Trump has never grappled with, frequently hitting the same notes within a single speech.
Despite an occasional tendency to stray off-topic on his social media platforms, often attacking people with little or no strategic gain (take his former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany or even Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for instance), he largely stays devoted to his message.
You don’t have to be a fervent follower to glean that, according to Trump, he is leading the polls, is unjustly targeted by the deep state, and is fundamentally an INNOCENT MAN.
Success in politics often correlates with the underlying sense of optimism a leader projects. It is important not to misread the grim outlook Trump sometimes presents, such as his depiction of current events influenced by, as he describes it, ‘very stupid people’.
Underneath, there’s an unshakeable confidence in America’s greatness, a belief he carried during his term as president when everything, from the economy to the military, was unrivaled, a status he insists will return.
Trump’s business and celebrity experience has trained him to talk in superlatives. He has a propensity for promising to achieve grand feats. Sure, there’s risk of over-promising, but for his political future, that’s an asset rather than a liability.
As Theodor Herzl, the famed Zionist leader remarked, simplicity and fantasy are what truly motivate people. Trump appears to have a deep-seated comprehension of this adage.
Take a look at his proposal about constructing a wall: it’s straightforward. Claiming that Mexico will finance it: that’s fantastical. Promising to end the conflict in Ukraine: simple. Pledging to do so within 24 hours: that’s astoundingly ambitious. These proposals exemplify the power of Trump’s simple and fantastic approach.
There’s a pervasive belief in politics that authenticity holds considerable value. Trump, in his candid way, possesses this in abundance. He can be deceptively insightful, but rarely seems measured or restraining.
This trait, while often despairing to his legal team, is accompanied by a certain vivacity. He has never shied from speaking his mind, especially about his opponents, who in stark contrast, tend to weigh each word they use in speaking of him or choose to avoid comment altogether.
Trump appears to have adopted the strategy of anticipating the worst, and if it comes to pass, he’ll devise a way to manage or overcome it. While this approach can lead to disastrous outcomes – losing the 2020 election and denying the outcome, battling federal charges and facing indictment – he never seems overwhelmed by circumstances but rather always perceives a path to come out on top.
Now, this is not to reiterate that he’s a sure bet for the Republican nomination. When it’s time to make the final decisions, Republicans might coldly assess that his liabilities outweigh his strengths, or another candidate may unexpectedly surge in popularity.
It’s also not meant to deny that he could pose considerable uncertainties as a general election contestant, or for that matter, as the president again. It merely illuminates why Trump’s fellow Republican competitors are finding it challenging to gain solid footing. There’s a peculiar yet consistent proficiency in his political maneuvers.
Receive a FREE Gift for Subscribing to the Newsletter!