“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.” – William Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar
Is it going out on a limb to suggest there’s been much discussion lately about Donald Trump and his future in the Republican Party and possibly as a general election candidate for president in 2024? I refuse to jump on the slow-moving kick Donald Trump bandwagon that is making its way around the entirety of the United States in the past ten days or so. If the former president is on the November ballot a little less than two years from now, I will gladly vote for him as I did in 2016 and 2020.
Yes, here’s the “But” — It’s becoming harder and harder to justify calling for Donald J. Trump (or “DJT” as he’s referred to in my household) to lead the Republican Party for the next election cycle – and into the future. Similar to a once dominant Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback who might’ve stayed one or two seasons past his prime, Trump has engendered much criticism for his handling of the 2022 midterms. It’s not so much that Trump chose to involve himself in the candidate selection process earlier this year, where he had many, many winning choices. It’s what he’s been saying currently – and his total avoidance of assuming any kind of responsibility for what happened last week — that’s getting him noticed. And not in a good way, either.
At any rate, there’s been considerable recent chatter about not only not praising Trump, it’s more like support for burying his political career. Like with a problem marriage, the schism is not something anyone wants to talk about, though it’s a discussion everyone needs to have. In a piece titled “Let’s Talk About Trump”, the always hold-nothing-back commentator Kurt Schlichter wrote at Townhall:
“Should Trump run and remain the GOP standard-bearer? Note that the idea of him instead assuming some sort of kingmaker role has kind of dissipated in the wake of his midterm failure to make many kings. Let’s have a primary and decide! Right now, the polls say he is the number-one choice for Republicans. He should not be pushed out by poobahs and pundits but, instead, he should be vetted by the people. A primary sharpens the eventual winner while testing all the candidates.
“Trump has to answer some tough questions. What has he learned from his mistakes? Will he screw up personnel again? Does he intend to subject America to years more of Trump drama, and what makes him think voters want that again? What, exactly, is his plan to win key states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan in 2024 (It’s a fair question to ask DeSantis and any other aspirants too)?
“Here’s the thing – I do not see a clear path for Trump to get to 270 electoral votes in the general as of today, though that can change quickly, so that’s the big question he and every other candidate has got to answer because we cannot afford another term of these communist bastards wrecking our country.”
Hear! Hear! As of now, I don’t see a realistic Trump path to 270 either, and therein lies the problem with the former president anointing himself the Kingmaker (for his own run) as well as the chooser of the royal court, sheriff and magistrate.
As is always the case with Kurt Schlichter, his last sentence says it all. In an isolated political environment – like a party convention – there would be many, many people who would be more than willing to bring Trump back for a thrilling encore. But once the meeting adjourns and everyone goes back to their “real” lives, we’d still face the prospect of needing to prevail in the Electoral College at all costs.
A leader might’ve led the greatest movement in political history, but if he or she can’t win, it doesn’t mean much. In the HBO miniseries “The Pacific”, which I re-watched on Veteran’s Day last week, Medal of Honor winning Marine Sergeant John Basilone shouts to a couple of his men during the heat of the battle of Iwo Jima to “Hold this position come hell or high water”, only to simultaneously be felled by some unseen Japanese soldier’s mortar shell. The real life meaning here? The hero can charge in and lead everyone, but if he’s eliminated from the battle and leaves his men (movement) abandoned, what then?
If Trump runs and the dug-in Democrats take him out, we lose. We can’t take that risk. And the number of people who believe Trump can still win in 2024 is dwindling rapidly, their doubt justifiably fueled by his increasingly erratic behavior in the past half a year or so. Why, for example, when party unity and support was needed most, would Trump selfishly tear into the GOP’s best success stories – namely, Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin?
What the heck for? Nothing good could come from this. Neither DeSantis nor Youngkin are part of the GOP establishment Trump came onboard to smash to smithereens in 2015-16. Those elites are gone. Trump vanquished them. Most of what is left adheres to the model Trump created and honed. So why the outbursts, DJT?
There’s an ocean of difference between being Never Trump and simply favoring someone else in the GOP for 2024. Like Schlichter, I believe Trump must undergo a thorough vetting process, like every other candidate, to re-earn our support. In the process, Trump could conceivably undergo some sort of rebirth that would allow tens of millions to forget his inexplicable disses against his own party members and back him a third time.
Again, the stakes are way too high to mess with it here. Joe Biden will surmise (if he’s capable of surmising anything) that his anti-“MAGA Republican” attacks carried the day last week in the face of “saving democracy” from the ravages of ordinary people who just want to be left alone to live their lives and enjoy the freedoms guaranteed them by the Constitution rather than be subjected to the whims of one-size-fits-all government and the machinations of nameless, faceless bureaucrats tasked with executing the laws that Democrats pass.
If we lose, Biden – or whoever the Democrats nominate – wins. A lot of good people say if Trump is the nominee, Democrats will likely prevail.
Can Trump recover his former vaunted status and respect? The contingent of “Trump or no one” consists of three categories: one, those who remain loyal to the man (the Michael Savage-types), two, those who honestly don’t believe that anyone else could possibly stand in his shoes and replicate his success, and three, those who remain steadfast that the 2020 election was stolen and Trump therefore deserves justice and should not be denied another shot at the nomination – and Joe Biden after that.
As has always been the case, there is a solid foundation for all three groups. Trump risked much by running for president in 2016, and he alone – or mostly alone – deserves credit for first infiltrating the Washington swamp establishment, busting heads and moving the pumps into position to drain the place. It’s a little hard to remember now, but many, many people gave Trump no shot at winning the Republican nomination – and no chance to beat a veteran pol like Hillary Clinton in the general.
So, in essence, Trump “broke the mold” when he came on scene and in a host of ways is irreplaceable. Some conservatives still maintain that the more recent wave of young but proven conservative newcomers don’t have what it takes to combat the Democrats and beat them the way Trump did. I for one never really thought Trump had “magic” in his storehouse of abilities, but instead possessed a steely spine that couldn’t be dented by normal human politicians.
He could be knocked down, but never out. There was no magic bullet, but eventually Trump also built such an intractable force of haters that it became near impossible to overcome in a national election. Voters either loved Trump or loathed him. His approval numbers varied very little over four years. A few times his positive figure hovered at or around 50 percent, but never reached 52, 53 or 55. In other words, Trump could deliver the planet, but it wouldn’t matter to the disgruntled. For them, the dough had risen, the pie was baked, the die was cast, the future was set.
There’s nothing to indicate that this trend has changed since 2020. Trump improved a bit after the January 6 furor died down, but there’s no path to changing his enemies’ minds in a big way. Never means never to these people. How to lift the ceiling – even a couple points? How to change minds? It sure as heck won’t come through Trump’s fondness for calling potential opponents stupid names.
Trump’s brand is established and it cannot and will not be changed. The only possibility of a comeback for him revolves around his willingness and ability to fight cleanly from within the system, just as Schlichter alluded to above.
Another question is, would the MAGA base accept Trump-ism without the man himself leading the charge? The economy, more than likely, will still be sluggish in 2024. Democrats are in charge, right? So there’s absolutely no chance that meaningful energy production legislation will be passed, the war in Ukraine will rage on as long as Vladimir Putin decides he likes killing civilians in droves (and there’s ZERO emphasis from the Biden administration to get it over with quickly), Saudi Arabia won’t give-in to senile Joe’s pleas for pumping more petroleum, a divided Congress will still spend TONS of money (Mitch McConnell will likely be in the forefront of the senate R’s and he’ll capitulate time and again), and dopes like new senator-to-be John Fetterman will make regular clip appearances on Fox News because of his uncanny “Hey! Look at that!” appearance and lack of brain function.
Will the commotion over abortion have died down by late 2024? What will the issues be? Will an economic collapse guarantee a Republican victory? Probably, but only if the GOP can sell itself as the younger face of the future. And the current iteration of Donald Trump simply can’t make that case as it is now. Something has to give.