Donald Trump base Saint Andrews (La Presse)

Will Creating a MAGA Party Work for Trump?

As many expected, former US President Donald Trump is not going away quietly following his defeat to Joe Biden in the 2020 election. He reportedly wants to set up his own MAGA (Make America Great Again) party to challenge disloyal Republicans who helped impeach him in the House or else are considering voting to convict him in the upcoming Senate trial.

Other news reports suggest that the party could be called the Patriot Party.

Trump Has Massive Electoral Appeal

The prospect of setting up a new political party has many advantages. Last year, Trump won more than 70 million votes, the second highest total in American history. Nationally, he obtained more than a 47 percent share of the vote and despite his defeat, he won the decisive state of Florida.

He has an incredible grip over large swathes of the US electorate, many of whom are devoted to him. Trump managed to win over voters that the Republicans have struggled to win in the past and he remains the GOP’s greatest asset even after his defeat. Who else in the current Republican establishment can inspire such a following?

Of course, if the Senate succeeds in impeaching him, then he would not be allowed to stand for election ever again. But should he survive impeachment, Trump will focus on regaining the White House in 2024.

Third Parties Have a Patchy History in the US

Third parties have always underperformed in US presidential elections. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt established the Progressive Bull Moose Party and despite his resounding success, it has been argued that by splitting the center-right vote, the former US president actually made it easier for Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency that year.

Eighty years later, Ross Perot stood as an independent candidate in the 1992 US election and caused Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush to lose the presidency to Bill Clinton.

No matter how well a MAGA party performs in 2024, American elections are a two-horse race and it would be more advantageous for Trump to stand for the Republicans again. But the former president would need to make some changes to appeal to the highly-educated GOP voters who deserted him during the 2018 mid-term elections and again in 2020. An analysis discovered that many of these people found his presidency too off-putting and often offensive, though they gave him a chance in 2016.

To succeed, Trump would need to expand his support beyond his base.

Trump Should Campaign on a Return to Prosperity

Compared to Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden was seen as hard to demonize, and that is why the Democratic establishment were keen to make him their candidate. He appealed to white working-class voters in the Rust Belt and he did not carry the same baggage as Clinton, despite reports about Hunter Biden’s dealings emerging before the election.

In 2024, Trump will have two distinct advantages: his handling of the coronavirus won’t haunt him as badly, since the pandemic should have been dealt with by then. American elections are often fought on the premise of how better the country is compared to four years ago, and if the economy has not improved by then, Trump can play on his strong pre-COVID-19 economic record. The coronavirus devastated the former president’s economic record, but there are already signs that Biden has made the economic situation worse by implementing a fracking ban that has cost jobs in the oil and gas industry in New Mexico. 

The Democrats fought the 2020 election by campaigning for a return to “normalcy” and civility, but Trump should focus his energy on uniting the Republicans behind a message of a return to prosperity.

Establishing a third party is a waste of time and energy and it is doubtful that the likes of Senator Liz Cheney, who many commentators believe is launching her own 2024 bid, can appeal to Trump voters. Division will only play into the Democrats’ hands. To add further insult to injury, Trump has dismissed the idea himself and has announced that he is concentrating on helping the Republicans win back control of Congress in 2022.