When Donald John Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election at the Trump Tower to an audience of about a thousand supporters on a blustery New York morning on June 16, 2015, no one could’ve anticipated the impact that he would have on this election cycle. No one (aside from Ann Coulter) could’ve even envisioned Mr. Trump winning the GOP presidential nomination. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time – even Mr. Trump himself -, there was a leadership void within the Republican Party that was crying out to be filled.
The billionaire’s no-nonsense style, outsider status, business savvy and keen political instincts drew in the support of blocks of politically frustrated middle class conservatives, tea partiers and Ron Paul’s orphaned paleolibertarians, who were all looking for a champion to lead them and give their struggle a voice. In the following months, these disparate groups of voters organically coalesced into a powerful coalition which has propelled Mr. Trump’s candidacy from the fringes of the race to the summit of the Republican nomination leaderboard with surprising, albeit controversial, ease.
And to think, the teetotaler wasn’t even certain about running as late early 2015. There were real fears that similar to the general elections of 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, Mr. Trump would not make a bid for the nomination despite giving indications that he might.
His giddying ascension in the polls has been met with incredulous wonder by the media and more established candidates who have long fallen to the wayside. His combative performances in the debates left his opponents tongue-tied, much to the delight of his supporters. His controversial off-the-cuff deliveries and political incorrectness are viewed proudly by his legion of followers. His war cry, Make America Great Again, has galvanized even the elderly to attend his lively rallies.
Mr. Trump’s in-your-face style has drawn a lot of flak from all corners, but only a fool would doubt that there is a method behind his apparent madness. As the former reality TV star has demonstrated repeatedly throughout his career, his audacity is always accompanied by a ferocious intelligence.
There is simply no denying that Mr. Trump has changed the face of American politics forever. And the prospect of a businessman being elected to the White House has rekindled century-old memories of the Roaring Twenties when entrepreneurs such as Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover occupied the Oval Office.
Mr. Trump’s nationalist populist brand of politics captured the imagination of the nation, and powered his victory in the Republican primaries. However, will the charismatic real estate tycoon be able to use an identical approach in his White House run, or will he pivot to the center and reign in his explosive personality? Will he be able to unite the party’s fractured base and win over the agitated social conservatives? Will Miley Cyrus move out of the country if Mr. Trump is elected?
William Floyd Weld is a man with a long and storied heritage. An ancestor was a Sheriff of London in the 14th century, three more were among the Pilgrims on board the Mayflower during its voyage to the New World, one was a founding donor of Harvard, another signed the Declaration of Independence, one more fought valorously in the Civil War – we could literally fill an entire page with the exploits of the Welds. If New England had a royal family, then the Welds must be sitting pretty close to the throne. In fact, the clan is one of the most influential among the Boston Brahmin.
It would’ve been so easy for Gov. Weld to simply coast along on his family name and wealth. But Gov. Weld was a man of principles, and for better or worse, he was also a political maverick. He was probably born a card-carrying Republican, but he never quite fit in with the party.
A couple of years after graduating from Harvard Law School (where else?) with a law degree in 1970, he served as a counsel with the House Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C. in preparation for impeachment proceeding against his own party leader, President Richard Nixon.
He returned to Massachusetts after that, and was very quickly promoted to District Attorney. He went on a rampage against corruption in the city, and even took down the Mayor of Boston. He was also a scourge of the banking industry. Gov. Weld’s record of 109 convictions out of 111 cases might have been a record of sorts - if only someone was keeping score.
The Reagan administration took notice of the hotshot lawyer, and President Ronald Reagan appointed him to head the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. For two years, Gov. Weld supervised all federal government investigations and prosecutions, in an out of the country. But he abruptly resigned in March 1988, and a few months later, testified in Congress against his boss, U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, who was facing corruption charges.
Less than two years later, Weld ran for Governor of Massachusetts. The state GOP was slightly uncomfortable with the pro-marijuana decriminalization, pro-LGBT and pro-choice upstart (there were even reports that he was a member of the ACLU), but his socially liberal views proved popular with the Democratic base – so they threw their support behind him. In an interview with the Boston Globe, Gov. Weld remarked "On crime issues, I'm Attila the Hun […] There's no room to my right." It certainly helped that his competitor, John R. Silber, president of Boston University, infuriated his base with offensive comments about women and the LGBT community.
It wasn’t really a surprise when Weld won the election and became the first Republican Governor of Massachusetts in 25 years. Four years later, Gov. Weld won reelection by securing an incredible 71% of the vote – almost unheard of in modern top-level politics – especially in a state where Democrats outnumbered Republicans by four to one.
His new found confidence even saw him trying to remove the pro-life stance from the Republican platform during the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego. He failed, and his star dimmed a little. In 1996, Gov. Weld ran against heavyweight John Kerry for a seat in the U.S Senate, but that proved to be a bridge just a little too far.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated Gov. Weld as U.S Ambassador to Mexico. But there were strong resistance from the Senate against his appointment. There were loud rumors that former Attorney General Ed Meese had a hand in it. Regardless, Gov. Weld didn’t even receive a hearing.
Gov. Weld then disappeared from the limelight, and aside from a failed run for Governor of New York in 2005, he only reappeared briefly in 2008 to endorse the then-Senator Barack Obama for president.
But he’s back now, as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice-president no less, and one suspects that this has always been the party of his heart.