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Port: Trumpism isn't aging well

His slogan may as well have gone from "Make America Great Again" to "Make Trump Great Again."

Protesters storm the U.S. Capitol on the second day of pro-Trump events on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Protesters storm the U.S. Capitol on the second day of pro-Trump events fueled by then-President Donald Trump's continued claims of election fraud in an to overturn the results before Congress finalizes them in a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times / TNS
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MINOT, N.D. — Since the 2016 election, North Dakota has been one of the most consistently pro-Trump states in the union. Even now, according to polling data from multiple surveys that I've seen but am not at liberty to share in detail, the disgraced former president remains popular among North Dakotans.

But is there evidence that Trumpism has gone a bit moldy?

Trump's rallies — featuring the man himself doing his insult comedy routine at the podium surrounded by various hangers-on and wannabes — have been a key to his success as a politician. This weekend, in Arizona, he held his first rally of 2022, and his first since the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot which saw his supporters storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

I watched, and have read the various accounts, and couldn't help but feel a sense of ennui.

Columnist Matt Lewis, who circa 2004 was a campaign manager for North Dakota U.S. Senate candidate Duane Sand, had a similar reaction. “Call it the Andrew Dice Clay conundrum,” he writes for the Daily Beast. “If your entire schtick is based on shock value, eventually the audience grows inured, and the lack of substance becomes embarrassingly plain.”

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“An old rock band can get away with playing the same hits over and over," Lewis continues, "but provocative clowns like Trump need fresh material to stay relevant.”

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If conservatives could set aside "great replacement" fear-mongering, and start believing in conservative ideas again, they might find they could win over a lot of immigrants they're being told to be afraid of.

When Trump first ran in 2016 he was a blank slate. He had no track record in elected office and spoke in generalities that appealed to tens of millions of voters. He promised to restore our country to safety and prosperity again.

Then he got into office, achieved very little, fomented division and rancor during every day of his term, and lost ugly to Joe Biden, a doddering relic, a milquetoast leftover from the Obama administration that had been in the refrigerator too long.

Trump is now demanding that the voters do something for him.

We are to restore him to the elected office he claims, falsely, he was cheated of.

His slogan may as well have gone from "Make America Great Again" to "Make Trump Great Again."

That may seem like a winning strategy when you're at the center of a cult of personality, but if Trump is on the ballot again in 2024, what are voters going to care about more? The former president's wounded ego, or inflation? And the economy? And the myriad other issues facing our people?

It's telling that Trump is increasingly finding himself surrounded by figures from the lunatic fringe of politics.

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Pillow impresario Mike Lindell was in Arizona with Trump. Not long before, Lindell was on one of those quack conservative media channels created to exploit Americans caught up in Trumpism claiming to have so much evidence of election fraud from 2020 that hundreds of millions of Americans may have to go to jail.

But while cranks like Lindell are still in Trump's inner circle, he's feuding with a host of successful Republican politicians. During his Saturday rally, Trump told Arizonans the Republican governor they elected, Doug Ducey, is a “terrible representative of your state." Not long before the rally he had Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, in his crosshairs for arguing that the 2020 election wasn't stolen.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw, a conservative Texas Republican, was attacked by one of the other speakers at Trump's rally.

Even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is about as Trumpy of a governor as you'll find in the United States, is on Trump's enemies list for refusing to rule out a 2024 run of his own.

Trump ripped DeSantis for refusing to divulge his booster vaccine status, and DeSantis fired back by suggesting that Trump hadn't handled the COVID-19 pandemic well while in office.

People like Crenshaw, Rounds, and DeSantis represent a broad spectrum of Republicans. Yet they're increasingly finding themselves united by Trump's ire.

At some point, Republican voters are going to wonder which side they're going to be on? Will it be with Trump and kooks like Lindell, Rep. Marjorie "Jewish Space Lasers" Greene, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose former girlfriend is currently testifying before a federal grand jury in an investigation into his alleged sex crimes?

To paraphrase Willie Nelson , look around you Trump supporters. Look at the faces that you see in Trump's movement.

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Are you sure this is where you want to be?

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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