George W. Bush, a fan of famed British politician Winston Churchill, was inspired by Churchill’s essay “Painting as a Pastime” to take up the art of painting himself. Painting has given him something to do since leaving the White House in 2009; Bush is now 74 years old, younger than the current president and his immediate predecessor and although ARTnews described him as “inelegant” and said his paintings “fail to convey anything resembling human warmth,” he’s had enough time to get better at painting, at least, than I will ever be.
After leaving office in 2017, Barack Obama took a long vacation before founding Higher Ground, a media production company. Through Higher Ground, Obama has produced documentaries American Factory, Crip Camp, and Becoming, as well as some podcasts, two upcoming feature films, and the children’s series Waffles + Mochi.
There have been roughly forty ex-presidents and each has had a different approach to the ex-presidency, ranging from Teddy Roosevelt’s decision that he didn’t like being the ex-president very much to Jimmy Carter giving the impression that he loved not being the president anymore. Carter, in fact, laid the foundation for the modern former president as someone who still does things, rather than someone who semi-retires into a life of public speaking and opening shopping malls.
But Carter, and later George H.W. Bush, also set up a new de facto rule: if you are defeated in your re-election bid, you don’t run again. This hasn’t always been the case, although only Grover Cleveland pulled off a successful win after being ousted from the White House. Cleveland is increasingly viewed as an outlier, though, and so, if ousted you are, ousted you remain.
Regrettably, we’re here to talk about Donald John Trump.
PRESIDENT TRUMP did not plan to lose the 2020 presidential election.
There’s a lengthy period between the election in early November and the inauguration in late January. That period is designed in part to give some time for the current occupant of the White House to move out and to hand over the reins of government to the new leader.
Trump fought his loss all the way to inauguration day, mounting legal challenges and provoking supporters to attack the United States Capitol. As Trump reluctantly shuffled out of the White House, little had been done to prepare his home, the Mar-a-Lago resort, for his arrival.
In February, Trump set up the “Office of the Former President,” utilizing the presidential seal to give some gravitas to what had to be a stinging name. Former President. While his predecessors had created charitable organizations as a way to remain visible after the White House, Trump’s last charity had to pay $2 million for violating U.S. tax laws and was shut down. Trump wanted to shout, just as he had for the five years prior, but he was banned from nearly every major social media platform. The man who had captured the world’s attention was now silenced and left alone in his Florida resort. He started a blog and abandoned it after just a month because no one read it.
What’s more, there were questions about what the Republican Party should be in his absence. Should it condemn the rioters who assaulted the Capitol in his name? Should it abandon racially-charged policies? Should it impeach him?
“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.”Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)
Speaking on the floor of the U.S. House in May, Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, a powerful member of the Republican leadership in the House, said that Trump sought to undermine democracy and the rule of law. “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Cheney, whose father is former vice president Dick Cheney, argued that Trump needed to left behind and conservatives should look to others for leadership. But by then, Trump had made it clear he wasn’t going anyway.
The next day, Cheney was ousted from party leadership.
AT THE Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando in February, just a month after Joe Biden was inaugurated, a group of Trump die-hards unveiled a statue of the former president cast in gold. While the imagery was incredible – worshipping the golden idol of Donald Trump over the rule of law is remarkably close to a pretty well-known Bible story, it was also crystal clear: Donald Trump is the true god of conservativism. Set aside your constitutions, ye faithful, and heed the word of Trump.
Indeed, in the months since, Republicans have become more and more dedicated to Trump. His supporters funded an audit in Arizona designed to discredit free elections. Republicans moved to restrict voting in nearly every state (some successfully, some not so much).
Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, has been trying to run for president in 2024. But Trump won’t say whether he’s running, which makes it hard for Pence to know if he’s supposed to run or not. Even worse, although Trump won’t say if he’ll run or not in 2024, he also won’t say if he would run with Pence or not.
Trump would be a fool to run in 2024. He holds incredible sway over most of the remaining Republican electorate almost exclusively because they think he’s some kind of political genius. But he lost the 2020 election and he lost the popular vote in 2016 election and while Republicans can whine all they want about imagined voter fraud, the truth is that Trump has never been popular in the United States. As kingmaker, he’s in the perfect spot to manipulate the party from his cozy resort (and mount the occasional rally to maintain his support) without having to face another election. He could maintain his grip on the party until his death and even potentially pass it to his children, creating a true dynastic political entity. Or, he could lose the 2024 election. He’s no Grover Cleveland.
Then again, Trump is a fool.
ALL THIS brings us to the big reveal: Donald Trump is telling people that he is going to be “reinstated” as president in August.
First off, no he won’t:
There is no do-over provision in the Constitution. Once the electors have voted and Congress has confirmed the result, the winner gets sworn in and remains president for four years. Even if it was determined that Biden had won the election fraudulently, he would need to be impeached and removed by the Senate.
Sidney Powell has argued that “a new inauguration date” can be set by the Supreme Court and Trump “can simply be reinstated” as the president. Mike Lindell, the guy who hawks pillows on Fox News, agrees. And now Trump has been heard aping Powell and Lindell, with Lindell reportedly the source for the August date.
August is the date because a series of Republican-backed audits are expected, at least in Lindell’s ideas, to produce evidence of massive widespread ballot fraud by then. Writing in the Savannah Morning News on Wednesday, Will Peebles noted, “But the thing is: the audit can’t change the results. That time has long since passed. The initial full hand recount satisfied the audit requirement listed in state law, and found no fraud. The second recount, done at the request of former President Trump, saw every ballot in the state run through the scanners again, and found no fraud.”
Aware that no widespread fraud has been found, far right activists are spinning yarns about supposed fraud they’ve heard about. When searchers find nothing, they proclaim this to be a cover-up. But they also insist the next investigation will find the truth.
This feels an awful like the long-running QAnon conspiracy, a conspiracy almost certainly perpetrated by internet businessperson Ron Watkins that repeatedly claimed that certain important events would happen on certain days. Each cataclysmic day would pass without incident only for “Q” to insist that something had happened and the real day was now a few weeks away. After Joe Biden was sworn in despite Q’s insistence he wouldn’t be, many supporters walked away and ‘authentic’ Q posts have dried up.
But that it lasted as long as it did shows how willing Trump supporters are to “believe in the plan,” assured that just because the past six dates when the “unignorable evidence” would be revealed passed without a scrap doesn’t mean that August won’t be the real deal.
Of course, January 6 was supposed to be the “real deal” and that didn’t go according to plan. It went fine for Donald Trump, though. He’s not in court. He’s not “languishing” in jail. He isn’t president anymore, sure, and he’s facing tons of legal investigations, but maybe he’ll be reinstated in August. So you should donate to his campaign. Spend a little more on Trump merchandise. Show your loyalty. When August comes around, well, he’ll surely be reinstated in October, so re-up your sustaining membership to Trump’s perpetual presidential campaign. He’ll be back in office January 20, 2022. June 2022. After the midterms. May 2023. Christmas 2023. Please, donate today, to keep the Trump campaign going into 2024. He’ll be the president again soon. We promise.