Trump 2024: Return of the Jedi, or Revenge of the Sith?

Black and white image of Donald Trump wearing a red mask reading 'Make America Great Again'
Thomas Martin

Donald John Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America… and soon to be 47th? After reading that, there will be a plethora of different responses from the reader. Some, foaming at the mouth, will be incredulous that his name has even been uttered, with others desperate to see his return to ‘Make America Great Again’ (again). Thomas Martin discusses.

The story of this embattled former President is unprecedented, and one we will likely never see again. There are, no doubt, thousands of written pieces and hours’ worth of discussion over his Presidency, the 2020 Election Campaign, and the aftermath of lawsuits filed and claims of a rigged election. However, the content on what a return to the White House for President Trump would look like is scarcer.

What would it mean for the U.S., and the world? Would it signal the end of democracy, or herald a new dawn of politics that finally drains the swamp and smashes the establishment? 

On Tuesday 15th November 2022, in his Mar-a-Lago estate, Trump announced the start of his 2024 campaign. Regarding ascertaining the Presidency, the higher the number of candidates in the Republican primary field, the more likely it is that he will become the prospective GOP presidential nominee. Nikki Haley, former US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump, has also announced her candidacy. It is also likely former Vice President Mike Pence, Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will do the same.

What is the likelihood of him winning the general election?

Whilst the likelihood of Trump winning the primary race is beyond the scope of this article, it seems that – without banging on about 2020 election claims – he will most probably become the prospective GOP nominee. Instead, however, what is the likelihood of him winning the general election? Whilst this question is too early to confidently ascribe an answer to, data from the 2020 election showed some surprising statistics.

Newsweek reported that Trump won the highest percent of non-white voters of any Republican presidential candidate in 60 years and doubled the LGBTQ+ 2016 support. That said, the election had a 61.4% turnout, with nearly 33.5 million ballots submitted, meaning the different categories are going to be higher anyway. Interestingly, a bizarre statistic, via the American Federation for Aging Research, estimated that Trump would live 11.4 years after Inauguration Day 2021, which provides a narrow timeframe for a second term.

Regardless, analysing the chances of winning is, at the time of writing, largely fruitless due to the lack of proximity to any primaries. Trump has only just announced his Iowa caucus campaign staff, which includes Marshall Moreau (managed the GOP candidate who toppled the USA’s longest-serving attorney general) as state director, via the Des Moines Register. 

However, getting to the crux of which policies would be implemented, come 2024, this information was provided in November 2022, titled as the ‘National Greatness Agenda’ (as reported by Business Insider):

  • Regarding electoral reform, he pledges to restrict voting to election day, require voter ID, and require paper ballots. 
  • Then, following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s policy on drug dealers, he said at his campaign launch, “Every drug dealer during his or her life, on average, will kill 500 people with the drugs they sell, not to mention the destruction of families… we’re going to be asking everyone who sells drugs, gets caught selling drugs, to receive the death penalty for their pain.” 
  • The Department for Education would be abolished, and the military vaccine mandate would be abolished.
  • An Executive Order would see federal employees easier to remove, as part of the removal of the ‘deep state’. 
  • Section 230 would be repealed, which is a federal law that excludes tech companies’ liability for content published on their platforms.

Clearly, these proposals are likely to be more controversial and are likely designed that way, in order to further benefit from the free media coverage (which amounted to $4.96 billion in the 2016 campaign, according to The Street from mediaQuant). The Washington Post, in their article ‘What will happen if Trump wins again?’ speculated that President Trump “finally gets a military parade”, which in and of itself is not that controversial, as it would be the USA’s military version of British pomp and circumstance. 

It is up to the reader to decide whether these are beneficial or detrimental to America, but undoubtedly the ‘America First’ foreign policy approach will see less American involvement in global affairs. Since the Biden administration entered the White House, the United States have sent over $24.9 billion in ‘security assistance’ to Ukraine, via the Defence Department press release.

How he “systematically purges” all of those who have any grievances with his decisions

It is hard to see a new Trump administration spending that much. Ahead of the 2020 election, Brookings speculated on what a Trump win would see. Written by Thomas Wright, the article stated that the “vindication” of a second term would show how he “systematically purges” all of those who have any grievances with his decisions. The Washington Post added that Trump would seize control of the government and “install super loyalists” by firing “FBI Director Christopher Wray and purge the FBI”.

This article goes on to list anti-democratic potential outcomes, such as a “MAGA civil service” whereby ‘Schedule F’ would be implemented, ensuring civil servants whose jobs are related to policymaking have to pass a loyalty test. The impact of Schedule F, if reimplemented by Trump in 2025, would be monumental.

A novel legal theory, Executive Order 13957, issued by President Trump in October 2020, pertained to civil service roles that “participate in formulation of policy”, “collective bargaining negotiations”, “supervise attorneys”, or “deliberations generally covered by deliberative process privilege”. Axios, in their article, ‘Trump’s revenge’ estimated the number of civil servants affected at 50,000. This EO would revamp the civil service to the extent that it would become more political, and allow the firing of anti-Trump civil servants to be easier, ensuring an ‘America First’ federal bureaucracy.

Axios also reported in another article, ‘Inside Trump ’25’ the origins of this legal theory. James Sherk, a member of the Domestic Policy Council, was frustrated at civil servants’ own personal viewpoints and how they dragged their heels over implementing the Trump administration’s policies, such as in the State Department over refugees. A democratically-elected government shouldn’t be thwarted by unelected bureaucrats, otherwise the tenets of democracy are undermined.

Russ Vought, former head of the Office of Management and Budget, proposed that 88% of his Office’s workforce be reassigned as Schedule F employees – an Office that the Washington Post refers to as the “nerve centre of the government, making vital decisions on budgets and regulations for all the agencies, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Internal Revenue Service to the Defence Department to the intelligence community”.

Whether for better or worse, this is a drastic change, and one that enters both political and legal grey zones. 

“Strategic narcissism”

Major foreign policy implications on the world would see U.S. strategy towards China change, shifting from what H.R. McMaster called “strategic narcissism” (to perceive the world as depending on the United States’ viewpoint only, and which occurred under Bush and Obama) in his book ‘Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World’. This would include full troop withdrawals from South Korea, Germany, and Somalia, and likely stepping back from U.S. support to Ukraine, if the war is still going on by 2025.

Overall, whether 2025 heralding the return for President Trump is a positive or a negative, one thing is clear: the future decade of global politics remains, and will continue to be, as turbulent and unclear as ever.

Thomas Martin

Featured image courtesy of visuals via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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