Jim Geraghty asks “Who’s Equipped to Hold the Trump Coalition Together?” He concludes:
There is no natural ideological successor, which suggests that if or when Trump retires after two terms, is defeated after one, is impeached, or however he departs the stage, there will be no one who will be able to bring together the same factions in the same way.
Geraghty’s last three words — “in the same way” — are key. Trump is sufficiently unorthodox that it’s unrealistic to think an ideological successor who convincingly subscribes to the full menu of Trumpism will emerge.
It’s also unrealistic to believe that keeping the coalition together through such a successor would be optimal. If Trump is defeated in 2020, finding a new way will be imperative (in this scenario Trump himself probably will have been unable to keep the coalition together). By 2024, new realities, both at home and abroad, may require a fine-tuning of Trumpism. Indeed, by then Trump, assuming he’s reelected, may be have done some significant policy fine-tuning to meet new realities.
My sense is that supply will meet demand. In other words, if there is demand for holding the Trump coalition together — and there likely will be — someone will come forward who is more or less equipped to hold it together, albeit not in quite the same way.
To me, Sen. Tom Cotton is the most likely candidate. Cotton doesn’t agree with Trump on some important issues. For example, he’s more inclined to continue U.S. involvement in Middle East hot spots. He also opposes leniency for federal felons legislation that Trump now backs.
The latter position is consistent with what Trump advocated until recently. On this issue, Cotton is more Trumpian than Trump. On Middle East involvement, it’s still not clear exactly what, in practice, Trumpism is.
But the key points are that Cotton is a fierce nationalist, an uncompromising fighter, and an unapologetic ally of President Trump. These attributes make him a plausible candidate to keep the Trump coalition together.