Donald Trump is once again running for president, kicking off another White House bid less than two years after inciting a violent attack on the US Capitol as part of his attempt to overthrow American democracy and stay in power. “In order to make America great and glorious again, I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” he said Tuesday night in Mar-a-Lago.
The former president enters the 2024 race politically wounded from last week’s midterms, as Americans largely rejected his stable of election-denying candidates. But Trump may still prove the favorite for the nomination anyway, given the grip he’s held on the party over the last six years. He could face stiff competition from Florida governor Ron DeSantis, whose star has risen on the right, or a challenge from his former vice president, Mike Pence, whose new memoir happened to hit shelves Tuesday. If successful in the primary, Trump could once again face Joe Biden, who has indicated he’ll run for reelection despite worries among some Democrats.
Major questions loom over Trump’s 2024 campaign, including whether it will be impacted by the revelations that came out of January 6 investigations conducted by a House select committee, which have shown that Trump knowingly participated in a coordinated effort to overturn the election results, was indifferent—or even gleeful—about armed supporters storming the Capitol, and spread lies about election fraud to destroy Americans’ trust in the democratic process. Members of the committee have suggested he should be prosecuted for his role in the insurrection. The Department of Justice hasn’t ruled out such a move.
One thing is pretty much certain, though: Americans will likely see his face on their televisions again with greater frequency after a far-too-brief respite. Trump’s first run for president began in the gaudy lobby of Trump Tower, with a bigoted and demagogic speech. He went from sideshow to GOP nominee and upset Hillary Clinton with an electoral college victory in 2016, while losing the popular vote by millions (and lying about it). His presidency was an unmitigated disaster, a chaotic, four-year exercise in democratic backsliding that would lead to not one, but two impeachments—the latter for inciting an insurrection. It was an ugly tenure marked by racism, dishonesty, and incompetence—especially when it came to Trump’s grave mishandling of the COVID pandemic. He managed to do lasting damage in one term, from reshaping the courts to the weakening of federal agencies.
On Tuesday night, Trump tried to portray his disastrous tenure as a triumph. “Two years ago, when I left office, the United States stood ready for its golden age,” he said. “Our nation was at the pinnacle of power, prosperity and prestige.” Trump, of course, exited the White House in disgrace after his failed attempt to overturn a free and fair election.
And yet, the horror of the Trump term we got would almost certainly be eclipsed by a second one: His four years in office constituted an existential threat to democracy; another four could break it entirely. His run, then, comes as upsetting, if not entirely unexpected news to most Americans, who rejected him in 2020, but are continuing to suffer the fallout from his nightmarish reign—including, but not exclusive to, the Supreme Court he stacked with right-wing ideologues who are radically reshaping society and may upend future elections.
Ideally, everyone would agree that one Trump term was one too many. But Trump, a man so cruel and corrupt that it almost overshadows his towering ineptitude, has maintained a cult-like hold over the GOP. The party—remade in his ugly image—has spent the past two years institutionalizing the former president’s stolen-election lies, implementing anti-voting laws, and seeking positions of power over the election process. That all poses a tremendous threat to democracy, regardless of whether Trump succeeds in returning to the White House.
Originally published in Vanityfair.com