When the 2016 presidential campaign started in mid-2015, there was a wide but uninspiring field of candidates to choose from. Most seemed to have solid resumes and name recognition, but all seemed just like different versions of what we’d grown accustomed to and were destined to disappoint us as Republican primary voters.
Donald Trump stepped forward and changed all of that. He spoke many (supposedly) unpopular truths and stuck to his guns no matter the fallout. As the process moved forward, the field was clearly split into two camps – Donald Trump and not Donald Trump. Trump identified as the only candidate capable of leading the party in a new direction. The rest were a collection of pretend change candidates, each one barely distinguishable from the others whether their claims on the White House came from governor’s mansions or Congress.
A traditional candidate stood no chance of winning this election, regardless of what any polls might have said months ago. We know how the legacy media treats Republican politicians. We saw how they savaged George W. Bush daily throughout his 8-year administration, all while he refused to fight back. Bush left the Republican Party in tatters, culminating with Barack Obama’s landslide win in 2008.
In 2012, the GOP ran Mitt Romney. He had an impressive resume, a solid grasp of policy, and a mild, if not soft, demeanor. By the end of the campaign, the media was able to successfully paint him as woman-hating animal abuser who held contempt for half of the country. He was so unwilling and unable to fight back that he was embarrassed on national television by Candy Crowley during one of the debates when he tried to challenge the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks.
So, in 2016, we needed someone who not only could capture the spirit of the movement but who also had the spine to hit back twice as hard.
After all of the lies, distortions, and personal attacks on him and his family, Donald Trump was left standing as the winner of the general election. Through his undaunted personal courage he fended off the attacks while his supporters defended and advocated for him wherever and whenever they could.
Predictably, now that the heavy lifting has been done, those who sat it out or even worked actively against his election (#NeverTrump) are seeking to reclaim relevancy and hijack whatever part of this movement they can.
Mitt Romney not only viciously attacked Donald Trump during the primary season, he also worked actively towards handing the presidency to Hillary Clinton by supporting Evan McMullin’s attempt to deny Trump necessary electoral votes. Now Romney has followed the President-elect around like a lost puppy while begging (ultimately unsuccessfully) to be his Secretary of State. Jeb Bush is desperately trying to salvage his family dynasty by becoming a “true voice” for conservatism and giving his “approval” to Trump’s cabinet picks.
To his credit, John Kasich has been relatively quiet. However, he had scheduled a press conference the week of the election, attempting to position himself as the next voice of the party in the wake of what he expected to be a Clinton victory (and likely hoped for as he openly promoted his meaningless protest vote for John McCain). After being loudly booed at President-elect Trump’s rally in his home state of Ohio, you can count on him seizing on whatever opportunities he can to attempt to return to the good graces of American voters.
But there is one leader of the Republican Party now. It’s the man who worked tirelessly against incredible odds to earn the support and respect of the voters. It’s because of HIM that our optimism about the future is higher than it’s been in years as manufacturing jobs are beginning to be saved and foreign investment is already coming in. It’s HIS approval ratings that continue to climb as Americans see the foundation for his agenda built. The discredited and distrusted voices of the past need to get on the same page as President-elect Trump and his supporters if they’re going to have a significant role in this new era. We the people did not elect them; we rejected all of them at one time or another. We voted for this movement and we voted for Donald Trump.
Michael Scannell is a Republican activist in New Jersey