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Commentary: Trump’s 2024 presidential run launches Republican civil war with global impact

With Trump potentially on the 2024 presidential ballot, US partners will be watching to see how many commitments they should make, without knowing if the US will keep their own, says Steven Okun.

Commentary: Trump’s 2024 presidential run launches Republican civil war with global impact

Former US president Donald Trump arrives to speak during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on Nov 15, 2022 when he announced that he officially launched his 2024 presidential campaign. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

SINGAPORE: On the heels of his party’s underwhelming performance in the midterm elections, former US president Donald Trump announced his third run for the White House.

As opposed to Trump having the nomination to himself as he did four years ago, the US Republican establishment readies for a fight. Those in line to take him on include former vice president Mike Pence, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and, most importantly for now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Still, the twice impeached, under multiple criminal investigations former president remains a strong contender for his party’s nomination.


With historical precedent and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings in their favour, Republicans had expected a “red wave" at the midterms. Instead came the “Roe wave”, as US political strategist Bruce Mehlman put it.

Donald Trump shows no signs of moderating his most current position on abortion, which will cost his party. Following the Supreme Court decision that it is no longer a constitutional right, abortion became one of the most important issues to voters at the 2022 midterms.

Democrats did best in states where abortion rights were most at risk. So long as there is no federal protection for abortion, the issue will continue to divide the country in future elections – to the Democrats’ advantage.

LISTEN - CNA Correspondent: No Republican ‘red wave’ at US midterms but Trump will run again

And that’s not all that splits the country. Immigration, the climate crisis, LGBTQ rights and civil rights all divide people into blue and red camps. Will Trump and his allies continue to politicise these issues without putting forth a governing framework to address them?

The 2022 voters concerned about abortion criminalisation, election denialism and a return to Trumpian chaotic disruption went Democratic. 2024 could see a similar outcome if the Republicans have Trump as their nominee and he follows his own playbook.


It’s not likely that the Trump 2024 campaign will learn from the midterms and focus on the future. Trump is instead taking down anyone in his way, just as he did in 2016.

With insults hurled at potential challengers Florida Governor Ron “DeSanctimonius” Desantis, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (Young Kin “sounds Chinese, doesn’t it?” wrote Trump), anyone expecting an issues-based campaign in 2024 has not been paying attention.

So much for president Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

Still, do not count out Trump as the nominee. A crowded 2024 primary field plays to Trump’s advantage, just as it did in 2016, when he prevailed against a dozen-plus candidates who split the anti-Trump vote, including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

With a nomination process awarding a candidate the most delegates even when not winning a majority, Trump enters the race on a strong footing, unless the Republican establishment can coalesce around one candidate.

The Democrats did just this in 2020, with the moderates all aligning with Biden to defeat a challenge from the left. But it does not yet seem the Republicans are this disciplined.


The first shots of the GOP civil war may have been fired, and it matters to those beyond the Republican Party and the United States. A return of Trump to the White House means “America First” becomes the country’s foreign policy, one in which the US gains when others lose.

The Biden administration, on the other hand, understands working with partners accrues to everyone’s benefit. It has increased engagement with Southeast Asia and launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to strengthen economic cooperation with like-minded countries in the region.

The current US initiatives require faith from its partners that these policies will be durable year-to-year, administration-to-administration. Countries across the Asia Pacific remember the trauma of Trump pulling out of TPP three days into his presidency, after years of work to resolve thorny issues around labour and the environment.

With Trump potentially on the 2024 ballot, US negotiating partners will be watching to see how many commitments they should make, without knowing the US will keep their own.


The next presidential election could be a rematch between Biden and Trump, though it is impossible to predict who will be the nominees this early. In 2014, who could have guessed Trump would be the Republican candidate? Or Obama in 2006? Or Clinton in 1990?

If the rematch comes, on Inauguration Day in January 2025, the president could either be Biden, who would be 82 years old, or Trump, who would be 78. No matter how divided the country, many in the US agree they do not want that.

James Carville, the Democratic strategist famous for his Clinton 1992 campaign mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid,” said he has but one guaranteed applause line when speaking to any audience, no matter their politics: “We’ve got to find somebody under 75 who can run this country".

A Republican civil war can address one half of that equation. The world watches.

Steven R Okun serves as Senior Advisor for geostrategic consultancy McLarty Associates based in Singapore.

Source: CNA/el


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