Former President Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 15. Credit: Rebecca Blackwell / AP

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Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.

“Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he / That every man in arms should wish to be?”

Those are the opening lines of “Character of the Happy Warrior,” a poem by William Wordsworth.  

The concept of a “Happy Warrior” has been applied to a number of politicians over the years: Al Smith, Hubert Humphrey, and Ronald Reagan, among others. For Republicans, its time has come again.

Donald Trump is not that person.  

Instead of congratulating the Florida GOP on bucking the national trend and achieving huge wins on election day, he lashed out at “Ron DeSanctimonious.” It was petulant, even for Trump. 

Now, in full disclosure, I was never much of a Trump fan. I disagreed when he attacked “Mexican judges.” I criticized him for playing footsie with Vladimir Putin and capitulating to the Taliban. And I said Attorney General Merrick Garland should make the decisions about January 6, 2021.

That does not mean I disagreed with every policy choice. I thought Neil Gorsuch was an inspired choice for the Supreme Court, particularly when he took the federal government to task for violating Indian treaties. Limiting SALT tax deductions makes sense. Trump helped convince Arab nations to recognize Israel — a notable feat — while getting Europe to drop tariffs on Maine lobster.  

But we are in a different moment. The pendulum has swung in a different direction.

In 2010, the electorate was angry. The Tea Party protests took root. Candidates who reflected that spirit, like former Gov. Paul LePage, caught fire. The Maine GOP took the State House for the first time in decades.

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy — the so-called Liberal Lion of the Senate — got replaced by a Republican. It was a very different time.

The 2016 election saw anger evolve into something different. Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton — a historically unpopular choice — to be their candidate for president. The GOP race was a free-for-all, with a balkanized group seeking the party nod. It was a situation ripe for disruption. Enter Donald Trump.

But now we are in 2022, and the GOP wave turned into a whimper. Many of the candidates who came up short were backed by Trump. And to say that Trump is embroiled in controversy is probably an understatement.

We’ve seen something similar before.

President Richard Nixon left the White House under a long shadow of controversy. Republicans got their tails kicked at the next election.  

His elected successor, Jimmy Carter, was a pleasant man who helmed the nation during a period of high inflation and turmoil in large, oil-exporting nations. The “Misery Index” climbed substantially through his term.  

The solution to misery was happiness. And a “Happy Warrior” appeared on the scene.  

Gov. Ronald Reagan trounced Carter. Reagan did not run on a platform of anger and exclusion. He called out John Winthrop’s famous metaphor of the United States as a City Upon a Hill, with visitors of all races, colors and creeds. He struck an optimistic tone.

While two years is far too much time for a presidential campaign, the reality is that we are now pointed towards 2024 whether we like it or not.  

Democrats seem likely to nominate President Biden for re-election. While the “Misery Index” is climbing, it is not a fait accompli that Biden will face the same headwinds as Carter. But it is not certain that he won’t.

As the GOP triages what went wrong in 2022, while anger can be a powerful emotion, something else is in order.

Who will be the new Happy Warrior?  

We’ve got about a year to find out.

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Michael Cianchette, Opinion columnist

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.