It’s becoming crystal clear what Trump wants to do after he leaves the White House — he wants to turn the GOP into his old TV show, “The Apprentice.”
Just like the show, Trump envisions a Republican Party where everyone who wants to be anyone has to vie for his approval. He will be both the star and the host of the show. Forget about constituents, forget about the party at large, prepare to see some Omarosa Manigault behavior. That’s what Trump likes.
Over the past few weeks there have been whispers around Washington about GOP lawmakers who told their Democratic colleagues that they wished they could congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and move on with our normal peaceful transition of power. But they couldn’t, because Trump would be furious. Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said a number of GOP Senators told him they couldn’t speak freely… yet.
Well if the GOP lets the Trump show go on that “yet” may never come. Even as a private citizen Trump will demand absolute loyalty. Anyone who steps outside of that will hear the old: “You’re fired.”
The show must go on and on and on and on
Turning the GOP into a Trump show means, of course, that all of the focus — all of the oxygen in the room — will go to Trump. There will be no place for other Republican stars unless they are subservient to him. And party leadership will not have full control because he will direct his base according to his own wishes.
The reason for this is obvious: Trump doesn’t get his power from being backed by the GOP, he gets it from his popularity with the base, which includes many voters who don’t normally turn out on Election Day. He’s going to keep doing the things that make him popular with those voters — he’s going to keep talking, tweeting, and likely (according to reports) doing rallies — even after he leaves the White House. He has to do it not only because he likes doing these things, but also because he desperately needs the money to fight legal battles and pay debts.
This will all be fairly easy for him to do, which is good for Trump given how lazy he is. With YouTube and Twitter he doesn’t need to do the work of building his own news network. And of course, plenty of other platforms would be happy to have him. Over at Vanity Fair, Gabe Sherman reports that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch is considering giving Trump a $100 million book deal and show on Fox News so Trump will stop bashing the network he once championed.
So we won’t be rid of Trump. And for as long as Trump is around the GOP will subject to his whims, which have nothing to do with what’s good for the party.
Consider the reports that he may run for president again in 2024. A source told the Washington Post that Trump couldn’t care less about younger GOP politicians who want to run, like former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hayley or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He wants to hold the space for himself whether he runs or not because he enjoys the attention, and because he wants to keep the party under his thumb.
This is less like leadership and more like hazing freshman joining a fraternity.
Trump has also told friends that he wants people to “kiss the ring” and receive his blessing before they attain power within the party. That means he will prioritize slavish devotion over talent, just like he did in his highly incompetent White House and with his highly incompetent legal team. Anyone obsequious enough will be able to travel to Mar-a-Lago for the king’s approval, or make an appearance at a rally. Trust — the people making that journey will not be our most upstanding Americans.