Paul Ingrassia: Any Republican Who Challenges Trump Cannot Be America First


"Trump's Republican challengers, if they were serious about the future of the country, would be doing everything possible to mobilize grassroots efforts on behalf of the 45th (and 47th) President."

Any Republican Who Challenges Trump Cannot Be America First

Trump's Republican challengers, if they were serious about the future of the country, would be doing everything possible to mobilize grassroots efforts on behalf of the 45th (and 47th) President.


It is impossible for any candidate who mounts a Republican Party challenge against President Donald J. Trump to be truly America First. Full stop. At first blush, this may sound extreme, but, in reality, a great deal can be divined from the mere act of anyone other than Trump attempting to lay claim to the Republican nomination in 2024.

The first lesson is that such a person discounts the claim that 2020's presidential election was fundamentally illegitimate. The logic in this premise is straightforward: if any candidate truly believed 2020's election was rigged, as the overwhelming majority of Republicans do, they would not be actively impeding Donald Trump from pursuing the office to which he is entitled. This is because Trump, not Biden, is the legitimate officeholder. His current political exile, the product of a conspiracy between the Washington establishment and Deep State cartel, who are as hellbent as ever on keeping Trump out of the public arena for good, would not be tolerated in normal times. Thus, our present political moment is exceptional – these are not normal times.

Our country has drifted so far afield from its founding charter that, save a drastic course correction, the American experiment may be over. The urgency of our situation should be apparent to any Republican challenger, including those who may, for whatever reason, still harbor personal, political, or other grievances against the 45th President. Indeed, most of the candidates (or potential candidates) have at least paid lip service to how grave this moment is in American history. Unfortunately, however, few have backed up their words with meaningful action. In politics, bold action always speaks louder than words.

Thus, anyone who expresses doubts as to the legitimacy of the past few elections, and yet proceeds apace with their bid for the Republican nomination either (1) does not really take those claims seriously; or (2) fails to understand, at its most fundamental level, a crisis that tens of millions of their constituents have intuited with relative ease. Whatever the explanation, neither bodes well for the candidate: the first signals dishonesty, the second gross incompetence.

In a certain sense, the first explanation – that a candidate truly believes the 2020 election was either legitimate or, at the very least (and this is the explanation they give most often in public to save face) may have been subject to some tampering, but nothing that would change an election result – itself telegraphs a sort of ignorance. It at least demonstrates an inability to reckon seriously with reality, particularly in the face of overwhelming evidence proving beyond a shadow of a doubt election fraud and interference in many different forms that, when combined, substantially altered the electoral landscape in 2020 and 2022.

Indeed, no greater authority on elections than Scott Pressler, who has remained largely agnostic so far in this already rancorous Republican primary, has repeatedly warned that without significant voter registration and ballot harvesting efforts, Joe Biden will easily win reelection. This will require significant and coordinated outreach efforts involving both state and national party apparatuses to overcome.

In short, there is a mighty task ahead for any Republican contender hoping to win back the White House. And this overlooks the structural disadvantages pre-baked into the system that includes still draconian social media censorship, indoctrination of critical swaths of the population, including Republican voters, by relentless agitprop, the concerted targeting and silencing of conservative voices by deep state agencies, and the weaponization of the justice department against Trump supporters.

Thus, any pretenses to "politics as usual" should have been utterly extinguished after 2016, to say nothing of anyone who lived through the summer of rioting and looting in 2020, where seemingly all laws were either suspended or changed on a whim to accommodate the "81 million voters" who cast their ballots for Joe Biden. Candidates who therefore wax ignorance in the wake of these stark realities have forfeited all credibility.

Today, the landscape is even more rigged against the Republican nominee, who, unlike in 2020, now finds himself on the outside of a system in which the Left controls every lever of power. Therefore, if the other non-Trump Republicans entertaining a presidential bid were serious about reclaiming the White House, instead of creating more unnecessary obstacles for Donald Trump, they would rather be helping to mobilize grassroots voter registration and other efforts to use what little power they do retain to give the most viable candidate a fighting shot. After all, lest we forget, though the system conspired to force out President Trump in the most unceremonious way possible, he was still only defeated by fewer than 50,000 votes across three or four key battleground states — despite all the rigging.

For his part, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been quite successful in registering Republican voters in his state, transforming a battleground that once tilted Democrat a few short years ago into a solid red haven. DeSantis's political talents would thus be better utilized if they were, rather than shadow campaigning, instead put to helping other red state governors – particularly in Georgia, the battleground state in his own backyard, in addition to states like Ohio, Texas, and Virginia – implement a similar registration program.

In an perfect world, would-be candidates like DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Haley, Pence, and the rest, would be collaborating with up-and-coming firebrands who have firsthand experience of election fraud and corruption like Kari Lake, Blake Masters, and Doug Mastriano, to help launch a nationwide voter registration, education, and ballot harvesting campaign.

While the hurdle to overcome such corruption may seem formidable, the bottom line is that registering 50,000 voters across a handful of states is less than half the number of new voters registered in the state of Florida alone under DeSantis' governorship. One way to do this would be to register voters at Trump rallies taking place in critical battlegrounds like Pennsylvania, where volunteers might take several hours beforehand to register new voters, drawing from the star power of names like Ron DeSantis and Kari Lake to attract volunteers, who might assist in those efforts.

In any event, between now and election day, there needs to be a concerted effort to register voters – particularly in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, where the likelihood of meaningful election reform, such as phasing out Dominion systems and mail-in balloting, is hampered by the lack of desire and coordination in many cases at the state level – including states with Republican majorities in their legislatures. Ditto an effective lawfare network, which ideally would be collecting evidence and preparing a strategy right now in anticipation of fraud in key precincts – making concentrated efforts to fix the always pernickety Maricopa County, Fulton County, and Philadelphia County.

Because time and resources are so limited, it appears that voter registration efforts, which should be low cost and rather uncomplicated compared to adjudicative initiatives, would be the best means for both the Trump campaign and RNC to devote their limited resources – again, in a coordinated effort. In the best case scenario, the RNC would have enthusiastically and unabashedly tossed its support behind Donald Trump's re-election bid to clear the field for him, and mobilize its resources to strategize an effective ground game.

Because adjudication is rarely effective after the fact, as observed by the cataclysmic betrayal of so many courts – many of whom were presided over by Trump or at least Republican nominated judges in 2020 — it is imperative that conservatives be proactive right now. Towards this end, it is good that Trump has been rumored to be considering potentially skipping the Republican Primary debates. For all intents and purposes, his nomination is already in the bag – over seventy percent of the base believes that 2020 was illegitimate, which is further reflected by the polling that consistently places Trump with a monumental lead over his nearest challenger.

The chief hurdle was always going to be overcoming the deep state's systemic election rigging, which it has perfected, and which accounts for why Donald Trump is now residing full time in Mar-a-Lago, rather than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. To that end, it is intelligent for Trump not to take the bells and whistles of a conventional primary seriously – for there is absolutely nothing conventional about the current situation.

This latter point cannot be underscored enough, and is ultimately the reason why the mere act of challenging Trump in a Republican primary should be sufficient for disqualification – and, fortunately, is already a de facto disqualification in the eyes of a critical mass of the Republican electorate. There is simply far too much work to be done – and the Republican Party is yet again behind the eight ball: time is therefore of the essence.

The RNC, for its part, has no shortage of financial resources. What thus must be done now is finding the most efficient and cost effective ways to get those resources into the hands of competent grassroots organizations in those select handful of battleground precincts.

Voter registration efforts are the best way forward for multiple reasons. First, it does not require legislative or administrative bodies to greenlight, therefore introducing needless hardships along the way that often depend on unreliable persons – much as a lawsuit would, or a bill to do away with ballot harvesting.

Second, legal processes – particularly in election integrity cases – flow downstream from politics. That is an axiomatic principle: judges, even conservative judges, tend to be obsequiously deferential to the judicial system, however what common sense would tell us otherwise about its blatant corruption.

Because conservatives know the game is rigged against them, they must unfortunately proceed under the assumption that corruption is baked into the cake. Hence, in order to make a viable claim, conservatives must overcompensate if there is any chance of succeeding through legal means, as the many obstacles involved in Kari Lake's lawsuit prove. Of course, this is a far cry from the idea of fair justice, but it is a harrowing truism that we are forced to accept. The simplest way of moving forward then would be to inundate the system with newly registered voters, which should make impossible to ignore, even for the most ideological recalcitrant of judges, an election fraud claim.

This is certainly not an impossible ask, but it requires that all key players, from the Trump campaign to the RNC to the Republican Congressional delegation, be on the same page. To most effectively accomplish this task would require cooperation from other non-Trump high-profile Republican candidates (and the institutions that support them), who should be all hands on deck in terms of doing everything necessary to make an already tall order that much easier for the legitimate President. That, simply put, is the mentality that all true conservatives should have – realizing that all the forces which blocked Trump from the White House in 2020 will return with a vengeance come 2024.

One would think this time we would be better prepared, but alas, the Ghost of Christmas Past in all the institutional TDS on the Right, best epitomized in the would-be presidential bid of Ron DeSantis, is a stark reminder that the hard lessons of 2016 have not been completely absorbed. Though a much smaller share of the party, there are still great oppositional forces in right-wing power centers to the MAGA movement, which, despite their waning influence, cling for dear life to what diminishing clout they have.

That last fact explains the "DeSantis movement" in a nutshell, and is all the more reason why President Donald Trump not only deserves the nomination for 2024, but remains the best man for the job, despite the many seismic changes to American politics that have occurred in the time since he made that fateful escalator descent nearly a decade ago.

Paul Ingrassia is a two-time Claremont Fellow: he was the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation John Marshall Fellow for 2022 and a Publius Fellow in 2020. Mr. Ingrassia graduated from Cornell Law School in 2022 and is a member of the New York Young Republican Club. His Twitter handle is: @PaulIngrassia.

Gavin M. Wax is a New York-based conservative political activist, commentator, columnist, operative, and strategist. He also serves as the 76th President of the New York Young Republican Club and as an Ambassador for both Turning Point USA & Live Action. You can follow him on Twitter at @GavinWax.

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