Cal Thomas: Trump: You're not a dictator, earn your nomination

Republicans who choose to run for president next time should not be seen as running against Donald Trump, though he is framing it that way. They should be seen as running for America, to make her even better.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd as he arrives at the podium for a campaign rally at Legacy Sports USA on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Mesa, Arizona.
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Former President Donald Trump says any member of his administration who runs for president against him — should he decide to run again in 2024 — would be engaging in an act of disloyalty.

Appearing on Fox Radio's "Brian Kilmeade Show," Trump was asked about possible other GOP candidates, specifically his former vice president, Mike Pence, his UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Trump's response: "Well, many of them have said they would never run if I run. So, we'll see whether or not that turns out to be true. I think it'd be very disloyal if they did [run], but that's OK too. And the polls have me leading by 40, 50 points." Partially that may be because no one else, including him, has yet announced for president.

The presidency should always be an open contest. One doesn't have an automatic victory in professional sports. Each season begins anew with every team and every player a potential winner, based on their skills and determination.

Donald Trump should step up to the plate like anyone else and earn a victory, should he choose to compete. If competition in business improves products and services, doesn't it also make sense that competition for the world's most powerful job improves the chances of the best president? OK, that doesn't always work, but the principle remains.

In politics, as in most other things, victories should be earned. This is not a monarchy where titles are conveyed by blood and accidents of birth. American voters ought to be able to test the ideas, performance and promises of a number of presidential candidates before deciding their party's nominee and eventually their next president.


Given Trump's legal problems and caustic ("severely critical or sarcastic"), some would say acerbic personality ("harsh or severe, as of temper or expression"), Trump might not be able to run again. The country deserves to see "the torch passed to a new generation," as John F. Kennedysaid in his 1961 Inaugural Address.

Republicans who choose to run for president next time should not be seen as running against Donald Trump, though he is framing it that way. They should be seen as running for America, to make her even better ("We can do better" said JFK during the 1960 presidential campaign against Richard Nixon). And so we did, reaching the moon in 1969.

"We can do better" is a better slogan, I think, than "Make America Great Again," because while it acknowledges America's imperfections, it also taps into a "can-do" spirit that has in the past led to invention, innovation, personal responsibility and accountability.

Trump claims opinion polls show him far ahead of potential rivals. Again, that's because no one else has declared yet, including him. Let's get through the midterms, which will tell us a lot about where the Republican Party is headed (and Democrats, too, if they have blind loyalty to President Biden and his failed economic policies).

Some presidential contests have featured fringe, third- and fourth-party candidates. Occasionally they split the vote and handed victory to someone who might not have won had they not run. Harold Stassen, a former governor of Minnesota, ran for president 12times and lost each time, though he didn't have an effect on election outcomes.

As Winston Churchill observed: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Donald Trump should not be able to anoint himself as the only Republican presidential candidate in 2024. Let him compete like everyone else and let the voters decide.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at Look for Cal Thomas' latest book "America's Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers and the Future of the United States" (HarperCollins/Zondervan).


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