- - Wednesday, January 20, 2021

By the time you read this, President-elect Joe Biden will have become President Biden, and his predecessor, likely with the Florida sun on his face, will be referred to, at least by the press, as former President Donald Trump. But if you think that Mr. Trump, or the movement he wrought, will fizzle somewhere on the 9th hole of Mar-a-Lago, think again. Too much good has been accomplished to let these political gains go to waste.

One of the many misstep pundits make when trying to understand Mr. Trump is conflating the man — a highly-flawed, frequently vulgar, often buffoonish character — with what he represented for his public. Here, leading the country for the first time in living memory, was a leader whose rhetoric placed him on the side of working man (as opposed to the elite), whose economic and military inclinations put America first (as opposed to China), whose war against the excesses of our domestic intelligence apparatus favored transparency and individual rights (as opposed to Deep State unaccountability), and whose unabashed pride in his country put him forever at loggerheads with the cultural status quo.

How well he lived up to his professed positions is besides the point. What matters is what Mr. Trump signified in the minds of over 70 million Americans. Now, there are quite a few members of the GOP donor class — and their representatives in government — who would wish this away. After all, Mr. Trump was so disruptive for their accustomed way of wheeling and dealing, that a return to “normalcy” is understandable. But it won’t, and should not, happen. Savvy conservative lawmakers understand this.

The prospects of Mr. Trump, for various reasons, returning to office are slim. And since the unelected oligarchs in Silicon Valley have stripped him from each of his sizable social media platforms, directing a political movement becomes exceedingly difficult. And without someone to harness and direct the energy of his base, the danger grows each day that the movement grows diffuse and eventually fizzles out. The longer Mr. Trump is out of office, the shorter his political shadow will cast over Washington.

To bulwark against the loss of energy, any would-be heir to his political throne needs to move quickly. They should first study and really inculcate what made Mr. Trump popular in the first place. Next, they should reflect on his shortcomings, careful not to repeat past mistakes or commit unforced errors. Finally, they should chart a course that blends what has worked in the past with the exigencies of the current moment.

The opposition with which Mr. Trump (and the movement he represents) was met was incredible. What comes next will be even more awesome. Conservatives need leaders, many of them at all levels of the Republican Party and in city halls and statehouses nationwide, ready to meet the task, and ready right now.

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