The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Dear President Trump: Please don’t run again

Former president Donald Trump talks to reporters during an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago on Nov. 8. (Phelan M. Ebenhack for The Washington Post)
5 min

Donald Trump appears to be surrounded by a band of enablers who refuse to tell him things he doesn’t want to hear, so I will: Mr. President, it is not in your interest to run in 2024. If you do, you will likely lose. And you will destroy what remains of your legacy in the process. Please, don’t do it.

Based on his record in office, Trump should be considered one of the greatest conservative presidents in modern times. The Abraham Accords are worthy of a Nobel Prize. Operation Warp Speed is the greatest public health achievement in human history. Trump made the United States an energy superpower and drove the Islamic State from its caliphate. He has a perfect record in appointing judicial conservatives to the Supreme Court. I have chronicled his accomplishments in these pages. I’m not a never-Trumper.

But another presidential run will obliterate what’s left of that legacy. After the 2020 election, I wrote that he should pursue his legal challenges but that if the courts rejected them (which they did), he should graciously concede, focus on saving the Senate majority in Georgia’s runoff, preside over a smooth transition, attend Joe Biden’s inauguration and prepare to reclaim the presidency in four years. Instead, he embraced election denial and surrounded himself with a clown show of legal advisers who convinced him he could hold onto office.

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Trump’s failure to accept the election results meant he never understood why he lost: Instead of expanding his coalition by winning over Americans who had not voted for him the first time, he alienated millions who approved of his policies but not of him. In September 2020, a record 56 percent of registered voters told Gallup that they were better off under Trump than they had been four years earlier — a remarkable share amid the worst pandemic since 1918, the worst racial unrest since the 1960s and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But 56 percent of Americans didn’t vote for Trump; if they had, he would still be president. And his conduct after the election only served to confirm their judgment.

Last Tuesday, voters made clear that their judgment still stands. Despite the disasters President Biden has unleashed, they rejected Trump’s handpicked candidates — his proxies on the ballot — and gave Democrats back their Senate majority. That should be a wake-up call for Trump. He cannot win the presidency with his base alone.

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Now, he is alienating his base by attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). When Trump attacked Jeb Bush or Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), MAGA-world loved it. But MAGA voters also love DeSantis and don’t understand why Trump is going after him. DeSantis delivered the only bright spot on an otherwise dark election night. The smart move for Trump would have been to endorse DeSantis, campaign for him and claim some share of credit for his victory. Instead, Trump devised a weak nickname and an even weaker attack — which has backfired.

Even before the midterms, DeSantis was leading Trump by eight points in a hypothetical Florida primary. Now, a YouGov poll shows him leading Trump by seven points nationally among Republican voters. The share of Republicans favoring Trump in 2024 has declined precipitously — from 78 percent in October 2021 to just 35 percent this month.

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Trump is surrounded by a cabal of grifters who do not have his best interests at heart — sycophants who see him as their meal ticket and a 2024 campaign as a chance to vacuum up millions of dollars, win or lose. They won’t give him hard advice because they don’t care about him — they just want his money.

If they cared, they would tell him the truth — that it’s time to pass the torch. They would have told him to spend some of the $161 million he raised through Sept. 30 on the candidates he endorsed, rather than hoarding it for an ill-begotten 2024 run.

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It’s not too late to reverse course. Instead of announcing a presidential campaign Tuesday night, Trump should announce he is going all-in for Herschel Walker with a massive cash infusion for the Georgia Senate runoff. He should mend fences with DeSantis and stand aside.

I say all this in sadness, not anger. I will always defend Trump’s accomplishments in office. But his conduct since losing office has made him unelectable. He promised we’d win so much, we’d be sick of winning. Well, right now, conservatives are sick of losing. Democrats have won the past two elections running against Trump. If he runs again, they will win a third.

That would do irrevocable harm to both the country and Trump’s legacy. He can go to his grave claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, and many will believe it. But if he loses the 2024 election — or, worse, the GOP primaries — he will go down in history as a loser.

So, Mr. President: For the sake of your reputation and the good of the country, if you want to Make America Great Again — please, stand down.