Is Donald Trump running for president or self-preservation?

Trump's campaign is as much about reshaping the presidency as it is insulating himself from harm

Donald Trump wrapped in American Flag
Donald Trump wrapped in American Flag
(Image credit: Illustrated / Getty Images)

When Donald Trump first ran for office in 2016, his scattershot campaign was largely predicated on his promise that "I alone can fix" an apocalyptic list of nationalist grievances and political shortcomings. Four years later, Trump's 2020 reelection campaign unsuccessfully pivoted toward a more traditional message of "promises made, promises kept" to justify a second term in the White House. Now, as Trump enjoys a comfortable lead over the crowded 2024 GOP presidential primary field, the former president is once again offering an overtly authoritarian pitch to voters, declaring "I am your justice" even as he faces a growing slate of serious criminal indictments for his actions before, during and after his time in office.

Given the legitimate legal peril in which he now finds himself, it becomes difficult to extricate the politics and policies of Trump's 2024 presidential campaign from his personal interests and longstanding penchant for self-preservation. As Trump begins to roll out his vision for a second term in office, a number of pundits and experts have begun asking: Is he serious about policy change, or is he simply looking out for himself?

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Rafi Schwartz, The Week US

Rafi Schwartz has worked as a politics writer at The Week since 2022, where he covers elections, Congress and the White House. He was previously a contributing writer with Mic focusing largely on politics, a senior writer with Splinter News, a staff writer for Fusion's news lab, and the managing editor of Heeb Magazine, a Jewish life and culture publication. Rafi's work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GOOD and The Forward, among others.