Fall is upon us which means that the Republican primary season in America will begin to pick up steam. This primary season will exhibit some of the worst choices on the Republican side of the aisle that I’ve witnessed since I’ve been able to vote. So far none of the candidates will go as far as admitting Trump lost in 2020 which says all you need to know about those running against him.
I’d argue that the situation in America has improved since the Trump years but the country remains deeply divided and as a result those running in the Republican primaries are dismal choices to say the least, mainly because of how scared they are to stand up to Trump directly. Even if Trump ends up being the nominee after all of this, it will be an uphill battle to secure a 2nd victory. Of course, the knee jerk reaction to such a statement is to bring up 2016 so I’ll briefly address this point.
An Uphill Battle For Trump – It’s Not 2016
This is not 2016. This time around Trump is the Republican establishment. Many fail to remember that in 2016 Republicans won not only the presidency but Congress as well. In those crucial years Trump basically did nothing with this power. He never drained the swamp, he didn’t build a wall, never prosecuted Hillary, didn’t repeal Obamacare, didn’t bring manufacturing jobs back, and didn’t fix the border. His major domestic accomplishments like lowering taxes and appointing conservative justices could have been achieved by any Republican candidate.
While Trump had some foreign policy victories in the Middle East that didn’t get much media attention, his track record for the most part was lackluster. It’s odd to imagine someone with such a dismal track record will somehow fix all of the country’s problems this time around. This is why it’s been argued that the Republican party is “post-policy” which I’ll come back to.
Since 2016 Trump has subsequently brought successive losses to the GOP, culminating in the pathetic 2022 Congressional showing where his picks consistently lost. It’s worth a reminder that Democrats were so confident that Trump’s picks would lose that they tried to boost them as part of their election strategy. This is one of many examples where Trump’s presence hurts both sides of the aisle. If the opposition party, in this case the Democrats, begin to finance their opponents as an election strategy, then something in the system is broken. It’s no surprise that as of this writing the speaker seat in the Republican led house is vacant. This is what happens when political parties become dysfunctional.
Unlike 2016, Trump has a track record. What makes his electoral prospects grim is that nobody is switching sides anymore; everyone has an opinion on Trump. There is only one group who doesn’t, and that would be the voters who were not of age in 2016. Considering that Republicans have absolutely no youth appeal and don’t even try, the deck is stacked even more against Trump than in 2020 for the simple reason that young voters will not replace the elderly voters who have died between 2020 and now.
I also believe the Democrats learned an important lesson in 2016. This time around they will focus energy on the youth vote and if turns out to be Biden vs Trump then it will be an easy victory for the Democrats. Despite his many weaknesses, Biden can take the same approach he did in 2020 which was to allow Trump to unselect himself by constantly taking the spotlight. No doubt the indictments will galvanize Trump’s base, but Trump’s base is not enough to win him the presidency as we saw in 2020.
There is far more motivation on the Democrat side of the aisle to vote out Trump out of office than the Republican side to keep Biden out. While Biden is not very popular, there is not enough fervor nor unity on the Republican side of the aisle to keep him out of office (more on this in the coming paragraphs).
Once Trump Leaves Things Will Get Better
The hypothesis that I will work with is that the sooner Trump exits the political stage, the better it will be for the country. There isn’t much to that statement on the surface, it’s been said ad nauseum but once we drill deeper the implications will become more clear.
Trump as a nominee basically encourages electoral laziness via Joe Biden, which actually doesn’t help Democrats. Because Trump is such a weak candidate that the Democrats don’t need to invest time or energy in finding a suitable candidate to compete against him. The reason I think America gets short changed with Trump at the helm of the GOP is that it encourages laziness on the side of the Democrats.
Let’s imagine Trump bowed out of politics. The first person to go would be Biden because the Democrats would be forced to field a better candidate. Americans are quite sick of the Trump-Biden match up as it is, which is why I think the nation will eventually heal once MAGA fades into history and better governance would ensue. Biden is not a popular president, it is only due to Trump’s hijacking of the Republican party that we find ourselves in this odd situation. With Trump out of the picture, Democrats would not be able to endorse Republican candidates, which is how our political system should function anyway.
I don’t like how easily Democrats are winning due to Trump because it provides the false impression that many of their radical policies are popular. A balanced, two party system acts as a bulwark to bring about change; total party dominance ends up with utopian/dystopias as the ultimate outcome.
Look no further than San Francisco or Chicago to see what happens when power goes unchallenged for years. These cities find themselves in such shoddy conditions because the party that should act as a counter balance is a disorganized mess with Trump at the helm. Competition on both sides of the aisle would bring the country closer to some type of center. We’d see even more diversity in the Republican field than we do now because candidates wouldn’t be afraid of Trump’s attacks. But as long as he is running, he controls the GOP and will take it down with him.
MAGA Is a Flash Pan Movement
It’s still quite early into primary season to make any confident prediction about who the Republicans will nominate. Many thought DeSantis would be the new GOP frontrunner but as of this writing his polls continue to fall.
Where I do think one can make a bolder prediction is the direction of certain political movements. Based on election results and the general mood of the country, I believe that MAGA has run its course and we are now watching it slowly fade into history.
The best evidence would be the voters themselves who failed to show up for anything MAGA in the 2022 Congressional race. If one were to look at Trump’s endorsements, only a handful of them won. It must have frustrated centrist Republicans to watch easy victories slip away from them due to Trump’s hand on the scale. This is best encapsulated by Dr. Oz’s loss to John Fetterman who was recovering from a stroke during the Pennsylvania campaign. In several speeches, Fetterman lost his train of thought or strung together incoherent statements yet still managed to oust the Trump pick!
The 2022 Congressional disappointment is an example of Trump’s ego doing more harm for his party than good. The weak showing in the House ultimately led to McCarthy getting booted from his speaker seat. While a short term victory for Democrats, an empty seat for the House speaker is simply not good for democracy and is reflective of the problems America faces with governance at this point in history. Mired in his own court proceedings, Trump has done nothing to help resolve the situation in the House of Representatives. Why would his presidency be any different?
Let’s not forget that Trump also lost the general election to a very weak candidate in 2020. A party that has consistently lost power since 2018 has no future unless changes are made. The challenge is that Trump effectively controls the GOP which signals more losses to come in 2024.
The fact that Trump cannot admit he lost in 2020 and has a small following who push the conspiracy theory is ultimately why he has no chance of winning a general election. We may tolerate many things in our politics but this level of denial simply doesn’t appeal to the proverbial suburban housewife who actually cares far more about inflation or immigration than petty grievances. I think those referencing polls showing Trump and Biden to be close are falling into the same trap in 2016 that elected Trump.
Biden is not a popular president. Any other candidate would pose a serious threat to Biden, as his administration has plenty of issues that are quite easy to attack. But with Trump running the GOP, Biden can simply sit back like he did in 2022 while Trump makes the election focused solely on his problems. Some argue that Biden has to campaign but I don’t see the reason. As long as voters are reminded on a daily basis about what they would get with a Trump presidency, the campaign takes care of itself. This is ultimately why the MAGA movement is doomed and it is unclear what future the Republican party holds.
So why not a better candidate? Many criticize the current set of Republican nominees for not standing up to Trump. The issue here is that Republicans unleashed their own Frankenstein in 2016. Anyone who runs against Trump will get raked through the mud without having the ability to effectively counter attack because no attacks really work on someone like Trump.
You may call these candidates weak but Trump has no qualms going after their associations or family members. Trump plays very dirty, that’s what voters like about him. Like a bouncer at the night club, Trump will muscle out anyone who poses a challenge to his control of the GOP. This has confused his supporters as a sign of strength but it’s more like a hostage situation.
As mentioned before, if Trump simply walked away, Biden would have to also go and we’d probably get more saner candidates on both sides the aisle. With Trump out of the picture we’d have a more competitive pool of candidates who may have a chance of beating Biden but most likely the nominee will be Trump which will result in an easy Biden victory.
Furthermore, with Trump still controlling the party, all we’ll get are cheap imitations. The emergence of Ramaswamy as a viable candidate for president shows how the GOP now belongs to Trump, having nothing else to stand for. This is one reason the party may be done with.
I’ve said it many times that there can be only Trump. There should be one of those “don’t try this at home” warnings about Trump because others simply cannot pull it off. Imagine coming into your workplace, acting like a complete jerk, bragging about yourself and always being told your the victim. You’d soon be fired and have no friends. Somehow it works for Trump but those like Ramaswamy who try a polished version just don’t have the same appeal.
Ramaswamy has figured out how to manipulate the media but he’s too educated to say the things that he does, it comes across as inauthentic. If Trump were to exit the political scene, then Ramaswamy would soon be an afterthought. I’m sure others have probably written about it but there is something that allows Trump to get away with things that others simply can’t. I think DeSantis struggled with this issue of identity and people saw through it.
Carlson Goes off the Deep End
The departure of Carlson is another major blow to the MAGA movement. Tucker was an oft cited rallying point for MAGA views, even though it was revealed that Carlson disliked the man, a rare glimpse of his true character. MAGA cheerleaders, especially of the online variety, have already announced the bigger loser will be Fox News, which will never recover. Many said the same about Bill O’Reilly. In the case of O’Reilly he no doubt has his followers but the punch bowl got taken away from him and with Carlson it will be the same.
It’s difficult to determine what led to Carlson’s departure. Some blame the Dominion voting scandal which cost Fox News millions of dollars, others say it was fighting within Fox News while some argue that Carlson’s reporting became more extreme during his final months at Fox News. In the case of Ukraine, Carlson went off the deep end, repeating Kremlin propaganda.
While Ukraine has created divisions within the Republican party, I think Carlson’s time was up when he began directly spouting Kremlin talking points. Once again, this shows how MAGA has little future as a major ally has now been relegated to his own Twitter show where his reporting has become even more extreme.
But it goes beyond Carlson. Consider Consider Bret Baier’s interview with Trump this summer. Trump has gone on record saying he hires “the best people” yet fired nearly all of them. Plenty of former Trump appointees have turned on him; his own former vice president is running purely to publicly clean up his record.
There is a long list of those who cozied up to Trump, only to find their lives ruined. As just one example, Rudy Giuliani could have easily retired as the man who not only cleaned up New York City but successfully got it back to its footing post-9/11. Instead he’s been dragged into the mud with Trump and will most likely be remembered for these miscalculations than any of his prior achievements.
After this laundry list of people who have either broken with Trump or have had their lives ruined by associating with him, who is left to work with him in a potential 2024 government? It will be scraping the bottom of the barrel as only loyal acolytes would even consider the role. That’s what is left of the Trump GOP.
Will the GOP Dissolve?
It’s ironic that the man who wishes to return America back to its greatness is causing harm not only to his own party but the country as a whole. And all due to an inflated ego.
Ben Shapiro has often described Trump as the coroner of the great divide in American politics, instead blaming Obama’s radicalism as the true start of the division we are witnessing today. I disagree with plenty of what Ben says but in this case he is at least right about Trump being the coroner of the current GOP.
Post 2016, the Republicans find themselves in an exceptionally weak position. In the movie Wall Street, a naïve Bud Fox asks Gordon Gekko why he destroyed the airline his father worked at his entire life, to which Gekko replies: “I broke up the company because it was breakable!” The Republicans were weak to begin with in 2016, they didn’t stand by their principles as their cynical critics pointed out so allowed the party of “law & order” to get streamrolled by a real estate developer from Queens. How else could someone so uncharacteristically “Republican” ever take control of a party that even 4 years prior wouldn’t give him the time of day?
During Trump’s presidency, I felt that he was unfairly treated by the media and like a toxic relationship, the media fed on Trump to create a vicious cycle that really damaged the country and only helped form what is now very much a MAGA cult. While I ultimately blame Trump for inciting such division, a profit hungry media only further emboldened Trump and also bears blame in many of the issues our country has at the moment. Due to the non-stop reporting on every Tweet, the MAGA movement slowly formed into a culture of grievance where attention seeking and victimhood are the only victories.
But once again, maybe the GOP is ready for retirement. The strongest, weakest argument I’ve heard by Christians defending Trump is that it was either him or abortion. This shows a lack of principle. If Christians had come together with the same fervor against a Trump candidacy as they do about transgender bathrooms or library books then we would have had a more balanced Republican candidate. Either the will was lacking or the coalition wasn’t strong to begin with. We witness a fractured GOP because the previous coalition of wealthy elites, Christian conservatives, libertarians, and fiscal conservatives has unwound for good. Furthermore, the moderates who still exist in the GOP fear the wrath of Trump’s attacks to the point where they stay quiet, allowing the most extreme members to dominate the party.
Because MAGA is a fringe movement, there are plenty of center / right voters who feel politically ostracized and will continue to sit out elections, or in the case of 2024 perhaps vote for Biden out of spite until the Republicans can field normal candidates again. In my view, MAGA has lost its mass appeal, becoming more extreme and cult like as each year passes. It’s beyond even the point of winning where the goal is to constantly play the victim. The days of admitting defeat are over and doubling down in the realm of conspiracy has become the new norm.
Now Republicans can’t get rid of Trump and he keeps costing them power. How many more elections will the GOP lose before there is some shakeup or a new party emerges?
Schisms in the Party
The recent Republican debate highlighted the different schisms within the GOP. Division also exists on the other side of the aisle but as long as Trump is a contender, the Democrats will put aside their differences in opposition to Trump. Within the GOP you have a mix of traditional conservatives like Pence and Haley, Trump clones like Vivek, and anti Trumpers like Christie. There is no better dividing topic in the current GOP than the subject of Ukraine.
Conservatives have blown it on foreign policy. Support for Ukraine is a chance for the US to shore up its image after a series of disastrous foreign interventions. Ideology aside, if you believe in the tenets of American democracy then the role as world’s policeman comes with the status simply because an alternative is a world filled with power hungry dictator like Putin; isolationism cannot work in the globally oriented 21st century.
A fair position would be to critique Biden’s handling of the Ukraine war rather than completely pull support. Over the years the US government has sent around $80 billion to Egypt for little if any return I can think of. Where are the protests during the Trump and Biden years about millions of taxpayer money going to Egypt?
In any event, most veterans and active army lean right, do you really expect them to adopt a leftist position on the Ukraine war? I think one reason Carlson got booted is that conspiracy theories about the Ukraine war and lack of support is an untenable position, its extreme even in Democratic circles. As a result of such poor thought leadership, the GOP has ceded foreign policy to the Democrats, an area they were once known for.
Oddly enough, the anti Ukraine GOP borrows from leftists positions in their critique of Ukraine. US isolationism, a criticism of “forever wars” were never Republican talking points. Once again this doesn’t demonstrate an actual policy shift, rather a poor attempt at being counter culture. The thinking goes something like this: because Biden is supporting Ukraine and many of those on the left put Ukrainian flags in their online bios, then we must oppose support. There is no intellectual justification, it is simply to be the opposite.
What about so called “fiscal conservatism”? Nikki Haley was the only one to even discuss this topic during the debates. Now we have both parties in a spending war with each other which is never what the Republican party once stood for. We badly need to reform entitlements. Unlike Ukraine, most of the budget deficit comes from entitlements but Trump won’t dare touch this issue lest he ostracize his strongest voting base.
Remember that it was Trump who gave everyone a check during the pandemic, enacted tariffs against China, and spent more than any Republican by a long shot. How is anything he has done remotely conservative?
As we saw with the ousting of McCarthy, the Republican position has simply been to self sabotage and get the camera to pay attention to you. This worked one time for Trump in 2016 but now it has become the operating strategy which is bad for the country. Simply being in opposition and having no policy, represents the “post-policy” GOP.
As of this writing I will assume Biden will run in 2024 and Trump will be elected as the nominee of the Republican party. If this is the case, then I predict an easy win for the Democrats. Trump has a solid base of supporters but not enough to win the general election. He will need to appeal to independents as well as those who still identify as Republicans in order to win.
As a Pew Research poll in July shows, 63% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. In 2024 Trump will be the most unpopular candidate in history to run for the presidency. The Republican debates were useful in showing us the division within the Republican party which Trump will not heal as the nominee. Many of the votes needed in battleground states to beat Biden simply won’t be cast due to Trump’s lack of appeal with independents and voters within his own party. Meanwhile, Democrats are nearly united in their disfavor of a Trump presidency and will be motivated in masses to prevent his victory.
Winning is no longer part of the GOP strategy. In fact, the string of losses since 2016 simply play into the conspiracy pedaling and victimhood that makes up the MAGA movement. The ousting of McCarthy as speaker highlights that the Republican party as a whole seems to excel only at obstruction and opposition to governance. A party which only stands for whatever the other side supports will only divide the country further. Should Trump somehow pull off a victory, I imagine it would be a much sinister and crappier version of how The Candidate ended.