Editorial: The truth is that Donald Trump remains a forced to be reckoned with

Former US president Donald Trump. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire© PA


‘Low-key” is not a phrase often associated with Donald Trump, but by his own carnival-barker, decibel-level standards, it is how his Doonbeg visit might be described.

His arrival on the back-end of the barn-storming, back-slapping brouhaha that attended President Joe Biden’s blitzkrieg through the country shows what a difference being in or out of office can make.

To be clear, this is a private visit and therefore has no government or embassy involvement, which accounts for much of the scaled-back nature of the occasion. In contrast, Mr Biden had touted deep and long-established Irish roots. He had spent his whole political career promoting Irish interests and building ties with the country; so any time he spent here was likely to be marked by shows of pomp and circumstance, with an army of well-wishers in the background.

He had laid out his stall in 2020 to be a unity candidate, one who might bridge the great divide in both politics and society. There is every prospect he may once again find himself squaring up against his bitter adversary in the 2024 race.

Both men may not be best loved by their parties or people for different reasons, yet each carries sufficient heft to make it very difficult for any usurper within their ranks to displace.

In the pre-Trump era, a candidate “ran” for the presidency. But Donald Trump brawled his way to the top. He tapped into the energy of polarisation and built a platform out of reductionism and superficiality. Messages were bite-sized and easily digestible. They left followers hungry for more.

Republicans looked on aghast as the renegade rallied the masses. Whether he can do so again is less certain. He no longer has either the element of surprise or the outsider appeal of originality.

He is also hampered by the most ­formidable legal obstacle course ever confronted by an American president. He recently declared that his victorious 2016 presidential campaign rescued the Republican Party from “freaks, neocons, globalists, open-borders zealots and fools”.

His critics would argue that he has replaced them with an assortment of hard-bitten, gun-toting, red-toothed Maga-crazed hob-goblins.

Whatever side you come down on, you can not deny he is a force to be reckoned with.

Those who have failed to see him as credible have generally paid for their mistake.

He has done more than enough to arouse both suspicion and begrudging respect – if only for his resilience.

The January 6 investigations and a number of very dark legal shadows now hover over his bandwagon. Whether they will be enough to stop it in its tracks remains to be seen.

What is beyond question is that he has commanded sufficient support to be taken seriously.

He may be easily derided and ridiculed, but not so easily dismissed.

Yet for all the bluster, it is reassuring that the true power still rests with the people and their inviolable right to decide who to best trust with their vote.