Celebrate the Facts!
All media, whether it be print, television, YouTube, or social media, is awash in Donald Trump stories, many of them spun in apocalyptic overtones. Clicks mean money, and Donald Trump means clicks, so much coverage is tinged with hysterical notes. Regardless of the clickbait, Donald Trump will never again be President of the United States, and not only because of his legal trials. Fundamental factors prohibit his election.
The Republican party has been tottering for decades as demographics had ordained its end. For many years the party had been a relatively homogeneous party led by old-fashioned conservatives like John McCain and Mitt Romney. The old-school Republican party was primarily white, suburban, and rural, mainstream Christian conservatives. Today’s Republican Party would be more appropriately renamed the Trump Party, should truth in labeling be required. When Trump is gone, the party will fall into separate special-interest groups, as many have no allegiance to Republican Party traditions.
Trump destroyed the Republican party, but his work did not involve witchcraft. Trump’s genius was his gifts for aggression, scattering personal insults, inspiring anger, dog-whistling racist appeals, and encouraging a sense of lower-class white grievance and hatred. As much as those who oppose him hate him, his followers lust for the emotional fix of hating the groups and people he demonizes. Trump is the most polarizing character in modern history.
Absent moral convictions or any apparent central belief system, Trump cobbled together a winning presidential campaign by enlisting new voters and appealing to various single-issue voter groups. The parts of his winning coalition included avowed racists, evangelical Christians, anti-abortion types, militia members, sovereign citizens, Christian Nationalists, gun enthusiasts, and the remaining bulk of his voters, who were educated, conservative white people.
While many people discount the importance of micro-constituencies, they can determine election results in swing states as the electorate became all too aware in 2016. Grabbing a few groups of single-issue voters made a difference in 2016 and made 2020 a close call.
Once one understands the current Republican constituency is composed of many groups of single-issue voters, the picture morphs into a clear focus. While many consider some of the more cringy groups as conspiracy theorists, that’s a remarkably uninformed look. Almost no one believes there was any significant voter fraud, that there’s a conspiracy of anarchists known as Antifa trying to overthrow the government, that there’s a person known as Q who provides riddles about a baby-eating liberal elite class of pedophiles, or that Donald Trump is an honest and honorable person.
Trump himself doesn’t believe any of that tripe. Responding to his nonsense means engaging on his ground, a premise that somehow acknowledges his statements are worthy of being refuted. Not one person who is whole of mind believes any of this combative gibberish, and debating it gives it a patina of dignity it does not deserve. Debating a Trump follower is similarly fruitless as they merely spout Trump’s talking points.
An election fraud of the scale required to deny Trump the Presidency in 2020 would have required the cooperation of tens of thousands of election insiders, hoards of state and federal judges, and additional thousands of journalism personnel. Such did not happen; even a faint semblance of such never occurred.
The so-called conspiracy theory constituency is a group of people who mimic Trump’s approach of spewing nonsensical statements and claims intended solely as an insult. One might as well argue with a flat-earther as debate a Trump fanatic about the election fraud, Marxists in government, or the soaring legal abilities of Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Sidney Powell. Their statements are merely juvenile arguments not worthy of a middle school student.
In the end, facts matter; in this case, they are not alternative facts. The Department of Justice has presented what appears to be an airtight case in the Mar a Lago documents case, and the other forthcoming federal indictments will likely be similarly detailed, with many witnesses agreeing to provide testimony in return for favorable consideration.
At one time, the party apparatuses prevented eccentric candidates from achieving nominations; think of George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan. The hollowed-out status of the Republican Party allowed Trump the entree to enter the festivities.
The vast and rather undistinguished group of primary challengers in 2016, along with Trump’s unabashed courting of fundamentalist Christians, enabled a hatchet man like Trump to pick them off, one by one, until no one was left. And despite the opportunity, no apparent strong candidate exists to challenge the zombie-like 2024 Trump candidacy, giving him a plausible onramp to the nomination for an incredible third time.
However, it’s certain Trump will spend months of the campaign season sitting in the dock in one or more criminal trials, severely limiting his time while he takes negative shots virtually daily, eroding his already tenuous position. Despite media predictions of a cakewalk to the nomination, Trump faces immense obstacles, and his ascendancy to the nomination is uncertain.
While there’s an odd satisfaction for many in poking fun at Donald Trump and his followers, and several comics have made careers of his reign on the national stage, there’s a significant and more fundamental problem. The same dynamics that made the Republican Party ready for demolition are prevalent in the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party has no dynamic or inspiring leadership in senior positions and not much in the way of bench strength. Messaging is also a considerable problem, likely due to unimaginative leadership’s fear of trying anything new. And the party appears terrified of taking new and inventive approaches to solving old problems.
The United States federal government, particularly the Justice Department, seems similarly ineffective. Despite Trump inciting a crowd to commit mayhem in the January 6 insurrection, conspiring with numerous people, including attorneys and elected officials, to defraud the United States and remain president, stealing classified documents, and then obstructing justice by not complying with a federal subpoena, no federal charges other than the Florida indictment have yet been forthcoming. However, an indictment for January 6 activities is coming shortly.
The senescence of the parties dovetails with the senility of the federal government’s law enforcement institutions and the seeming lack of courage to take moral action.
Seemingly the Justice Department decided to wait, figuring Trump would go away. But there’s too much money and fame in the Presidency and even a campaign for the office for Trump to ignore. And, as Trump spins on toward even more criminal indictments for crimes he appears to have committed, his quest for the office seems to be more an alternative between winning and going to jail. Winning implies a self-pardon for federal crimes, and losing, it seems, means a stretch in the Graybar Hilton.
If one thinks the January 6 insurrection was a big deal, wait until the Justice Department corners Trump with a full deck of convictions related to election interference and, quite possibly, seditious conspiracy. The end of Trump and Trumpism will likely be a frenzy of hate and violence. That’s no surprise, however, as the Trump movement itself has been characterized by those sentiments.
Oddly, the flaccid reactions of the Justice Department reinforce the right-wing narrative that the law arbitrarily imposes justice and the elites are immune from prosecution.
Many pundits have warned about the next Trump, insinuating another far-right provocateur could take a page from his playbook and cater to racist constituencies to gain power. That hasn’t happened because the bench strength of the Republican Party is so vacuous. The androgynous would-be leaders Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Mike Pence, and Lindsey Graham don’t have the right stuff. A properly pugnacious Ron DeSantis attempted to copy the hate formula and failed, a political journeyman destroyed by a master.
Trumpian candidates such as Herschel Walker, Dr. Oz, and Judge Roy Moore learned that merely being eccentric and spouting bizarre statements was insufficient to get to the show. Offensive shock jocks such as Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene managed to get into the spotlight, but primarily by grabbing seats not coveted by authentic candidates. Madison Cawthorne discovered one could be a highly admired raving lunatic but being gay was impermissible.
Will there be another Trump? Many will likely attempt to catch the Trump lightning in a bottle, but the possibility is faint. Before he ran in 2016, Trump had a public presence for many years, including a remarkable run as the emcee of a purported reality television show that ranked number one in ratings for many years, featuring him for 14 seasons. Trump also tried on conspiracy theories for many years, referencing his affection for birtherism, perfecting his dog-whistling expertise even before he declared his candidacy. Trump is an unmatchable seminal figure.
The point about the Republican Party is it must stay far-right and embrace Trump or fall apart, explaining the coddling of weirdnesses by otherwise rational politicians like Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy. McConnell could have likely powered through an impeachment during the second impeachment trial and ended the circus forever. McConnell knew this was suicide for the Republican Party and deferred action.
The intriguing question is what will happen to a moribund Democratic Party, although the comparison is imperfect. The party has moved to the right during the Trump era, with little legislative accomplishment or new ideas, content to simply court socially conservative voters, especially those mythical suburban housewives. The bench strength is similarly bland, aged, and bereft of energy and resolve.
Can the Democratic Party elect an ancient, albeit nominally effective, Joe Biden? That is more than likely. Kamala Harris as the president-in-waiting seems an uninspiring choice, but her office is mainly ceremonial, and perhaps there is more charisma in her than meets the eye. Aside from the ascendancy of Hakeem Jeffries to the Speaker of the House role, there doesn’t appear to be much bench strength development in either the Senate or the House, and the state government offices similarly lack energetic candidates with new ideas.
A more significant factor in Trump’s electability is his role in overturning Roe v Wade by packing the Supreme Court with Christian Nationalist justices. Abortion rights are a polarizing issue, and Trump’s repayment to his fervent Christian voters will come back and cost him at the ballot box, making election impossible. This factor has been little discussed in infotainment programs that pass as network news, as it draws fewer views than more inflammatory rhetoric. Still, it is an immense obstacle to Trump and any Republican candidate.
There’s a real possibility the 2024 election could feature Trump running as an independent candidate. One can easily envision a scenario where a hobbled Trump totters into the Republican Convention and fails to gain the nomination. With no allegiance or loyalty to anyone but himself, Trump would almost certainly run as a third-party candidate, thereby splitting the Republican vote and ensuring a Democratic landslide. While not yet a likelihood, there are many miles to go before the primary season, and it looks like a bumpy road for Trump.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.