Since the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, former President Trump has faded into the shadows. His repeated calls for division, violence, and the promoting of unfounded conspiracy theories earned him a ban from Twitter. Yesterday, 1/27/2021, he officially launched the “Office of the Former President”, which per the press release “will be responsible for managing President Trump’s correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities to advance the interests of the United States and to carry on the agenda of the Trump administration through advocacy, organizing, and public activism.” This is a bit of a strange move, but serves to attempt to keep Trump connected with his base, while pushing his administration’s policies of “America First” (a platform steeped in white nationalist ideals), while presumably disseminating more conspiracies about election fraud, the antifascist movement in this country, and combating the current movement of racial justice.

Since his departure from the limelight, we have seen a bulrush of political figures seeking to fill the void left by Trump, while simultaneously seeking his approval and endorsement in future political endeavors. It’s important to note that Trump, a failed businessman turned reality television star, hosted a television competition where numerous business hopefuls attempted to woo the CEO, with their business acumen, into a job within his enterprise. Running 14 seasons under Trump, it both helped to cement the notion of Trump as a legitimate business man and a successful entrepreneur, both which have repeatedly been proved to be false in recent years.

It seems the Office of the Former President seeks to do much of the same, serving as a platform in which a series of wild card politicians will seek his stamp of approval in seeking higher office. President Trump and his administration were an amalgamation of some of the worst things about America, from nationalist policies and white supremacist ideals, to revisionist historical education and religious theocratic attempts. These candidates have pulled the worst of the ideals left in the transition, embodying them and using them as a jumping off point for their future political endeavors. This is a political reboot of The Apprentice, so we may as well meet some of the incoming candidates that are hoping to pick up the torch previously held by Donald J. Trump.

Josh Hawley

Let’s start with Josh Hawley, who served as Missouri Attorney General from 2017–2019, when he decided to run for US Senate. When running for AG, he ran an ad denouncing “ladder climbing politicians”, only to do the same thing less than a year after becoming Attorney General. Hawley, since being sworn in as a Senator, has followed closely in Trump’s wake, doubling down on the conspiracies of election fraud. He was the first Senator to announce his intention to vote against the Senate certification of electoral counts, frequently citing “election integrity” concerns, as well as regurgitating many of the baseless lies that Donald Trump had pulled from the QAnon / Stop The Steal crowds. During the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol, photographs emerged of Hawley raising a fist to the crowds an hour before they stormed the Congress chambers.

Following the event, he continued to object to certifications of electoral votes, earning him inclusion to what lawmakers are beginning to call the “Sedition Caucus”. He has faced countless calls for resignation, from law schools, fellow lawmakers, and from protest groups around the nation. He continues to double down on conspiracy theories of election fraud, and claims that he is a victim of Cancel Culture.

He is primed to become a frontrunner for the Stop The Steal base, and is a heavy favorite for Trump’s endorsement when the time comes, due to his unwavering loyalty to antidemocratic causes and an almost unheard of penchant for bootlicking.

Madison Cawthorn

Madison Cawthorn is a man after Trump’s own heart. I say this because Cawthorn is an almost unrepentant liar. At 25, he is the youngest member of Congress, and one of a small number of elected officials that uses a wheelchair. When seeking political office, Cawthorn utilized his disability in a heartwarming story of overcoming adversity, surviving a horrific car crash, and having to pivot your life plans in the quarter mark of his life. By his own story, Cawthorn was a successful businessman, as well as a nominee to the US Naval Academy, before tragedy confined him to a wheelchair and deprived him of his life goals. It has since come to light that neither claim is true, as he was rejected from the Naval Academy prior to the car accident, and his investment firm reported no income and held only a single employee, Madison Cawthorn. He claimed that he was in the midst of training for the Paralympic Games, before his disability became more severe and prevented any further training. This is also false.

Much like Hawley, Cawthorn also spoke to the crowd gathered in Washington DC on January 6th, praising them for having “some fight” in them, while perpetuating the false claims that the election was fraudulent. In the lead up to that day, he sent out tweets whipping the base into a frenzy, claiming it was time for action and time to fight. He, like Hawley, again voted against certification, after the insurrection. He once traveled to Adolf Hitler’s vacation home, calling Hitler “the Fuhrer” and reviewing the trip “has been on my bucket list for awhile, it did not disappoint.” He has come under fire from students at his former college (for a single semester) for sexual assault allegations, theft, and lying.

As a young lawmaker with a penchant for lying and revisionist history, he ranks among the top of the candidates for Trump’s approval, due to his constant onslaught of false narratives, social media usage, and utilization of OANN and Newsmax.

Lauren Boebert

Which brings us to Lauren Boebert, a US Representative from Colorado, who seems dead set on making her single platform issue “I carry a gun everywhere I am not supposed to.” Hailing from Rifle, Colorado (no shit, it’s called Rifle), where she owns a restaurant called Shooters Grill, where staff members are encouraged to open carry at all times. It has a diverse menu filled with items like the Swiss & Wesson, Ballistic Chicken, Shotgun Burrito, and my personal favorite, the Sawed Off Eggrolls. In 2017, her restaurant shirked safety practices at the Garfield County fair and gave 80 people food poisoning. Last year, she defied stay at home orders and opened her restaurant for dine in service, and ultimately had their food license suspended.

During her candidacy, she expressed her support for the QAnon movement, before claiming she was not a follower. She fundraised on being the conservative alternative to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and accusing the other candidate of not supporting Donald Trump. Since being elected, she has been adamant on being allowed to carry a gun in Congress, setting off metal detectors, refusing searches and bag checks. Like Hawley and Cawthorn, Boebert played a part in the January 6th insurrection, tweeting the day before “Remember these next 48 hours. These are some of the most important days in American history.” She followed up in the hours before the attack with “Today is 1776.” She objected to the counting of electoral ballots, and claiming that the election was a result of members of congress that have sided with the “extremist left”. During the attack, she continued to tweet about the police response and the location of members of congress being evacuated, leading for members to call for her to resign.

Boebert seems to be the Sarah Palin that 2024 Trumpists may be looking for, with her continued social media stunts and constant need to brag about carrying her gun. I could see Trump giving her the nod of approval as the 2024 race begins to take shape.

Marjorie Taylor Greene

This leads us to Majorie Taylor Greene, who is unhinged in every sense of the word. Before taking office, Greene voiced her support countless times for a number of fringe conspiracy theories, from Pizzagate, to QAnon, to claiming that mass shootings were false flag attacks. She is a 9/11 truther, and believes that the Clinton Kill List is a real thing. And if that isn’t wild enough, she publicly expressed support for executing Democratic politicians on her Facebook page. On her first day in office, she wore a facemask on the House floor that read “Trump Won.” She raised objections against elector votes, but since it wasn’t signed by a member of the Senate, it was invalidated. She claimed that on inauguration day, she would file impeachment articles against President Biden, only to later have a GOP source from her district say that Greene “thought it would be a lot easier than it is.” She later figured it out, introduced articles of impeachment, which received no support by her Republican colleagues.

In the days following the insurrection at the Capitol, reports came out that Greene refused to wear a mask while sheltering in place, and blamed the violence on Democratic rhetoric. She continues to push conspiracy theories on Newsmax that Biden is bought off by foreign governments, while supporting the former President who was actually bought off by foreign governments.

She is a total wild card, which is why she is further down the list. However, having her unwavering support, Trump could reward that loyalty with his approval, sparking a race that is completely beyond parody.

What Comes Next

These are the Apprentices of Donald John Trump, former President of the United States. Each of them embodies the worst, most paranoid, qualities of the man who has pushed democracy to its’ breaking point over the last four years. In no way is Trumpism going away, it has fractured the Republican Party beyond repair. This cult of personality that has established Trump as the savior of America is rooted in the fact that he said all the awful, horrendous things that a large swath of the country actually believed. He ran a campaign and administration rooted in nationalism and in ideas of white supremacy. He referred to impoverished nations, most that way due to western plundering, as shit hole countries, he claimed that immigrants were the cause of economic downturns and crime. He accused those that stood in the way of progress for white Americans as traitors, witch-hunters, and foreign agents. He took the worst parts of politicians of the last decade and embodied them all. In the same way, these apprentices are taking the worst of him and this administration. They know that a chunk of America, a country far too diverse for actual unity, feels the same, and they know how to exploit it. They are more personable than Trump, often more educated, and with more experience. This is not a comprehensive list. There are so many more opportunists that are lining up. People like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. These apprentices are picking up the torch that Trump left, ready to run with it far into the next few decades.

In the week since the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States, we have seen widespread sighs of relief that the worst is over. I’m here to tell you it’s not. It’s simply becoming more palatable. It’s no longer an overtly spray tanned reality show star pushing fascist ideals under the guise of making America great again. It’s this group, and many others, that are willing to subvert American democracy further, through lies, grifts, performative stunts, and exacerbating already-miles-deep-wounds that scar the citizenry of this nation. It’s a live action role play in order to build their image, their wealth, and their influence. These apprentices are here to stay, and it is past time to understand their ambitions and the danger they pose to democracy.

Educator. Author.