The GOP Can’t Quit Donald Trump (But He Looks Like Damaged Goods) – Donald J. Trump is the elephant in the GOP 2024 Presidential Primary.
Few want to deal with him but it is dangerous to ignore him (as Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis and a potential challenger for the nomination has done). No matter what any other Republican candidate or potential candidate says or does, the focus ultimately shifts back to what Trump is doing or thinking.
The fact is, the GOP cannot quit Trump; they need him as much as he needs them.
In 2016, Trump galvanized Republican Party voters unlike any candidate probably since Ronald Reagan. After eight years of Barack Obama’s “transformative” presidency, the Republicans wanted a radical departure from him. Trump was a lightning rod. He took the personality traits that had made him such a well-known celebrity and applied them to campaign politics.
Donald Trump is the Star of This Psychodrama
Whatever one’s opinion of him, the man never stopped being able to generate publicity. The mainstream media networks loved to hate him—he got them record ratings in 2016. The Republicans, too, fundraised off him even as the Republican National Committee (RNC) struggled to isolate and kick him to the curb.
The American people, although heavily divided about him, couldn’t look away. Like a raging dumpster fire, everyone was simultaneously concerned and enraptured by Trump, his tweets, and his overall persona.
Not a single Republican Party presidential candidate has that verve. I have written previously that the electorate, in the aftermath of the catastrophic last three years, is seeking a stabler hand. It’s one reason for why Joe Biden was able to overcome the dynamism of Trump with torpidity of “Sleepy” Joe Biden.
Americans generally wanted calm and security at the expense of what they perceived as Trump’s instability and even, at times, irrationality. Whether this was true of Trump or not was irrelevant. This was how most voters—notably younger voters, minorities, and women voters—perceived Trump.
Yet, Trump still generated much buzz and galvanized more support than he had in 2016. He won 74 million votes to Biden’s 81 million. That’s something. More importantly, Trump increased the GOP’s votes among minorities—including African-Americans, Hispanics, LGBTQ voters, and Muslim-Americans—to historic levels.
There’s something about Donald Trump that people just can’t let go of. Even the mainstream media outlets, although they refuse to carry his rallies or give him the kind of unfiltered airtime they did during the 2016 campaign, spends every waking moment on whatever legal battle or controversy the former president has ginned up.
Trump is a damaged political figure, though.
The Captain of Controversy
He is beset on all sides by controversy and routinely makes unforced errors. At some point, he will likely be made to face the music for one of his purported crimes that are being investigated in New York, Washington, D.C., or Georgia. Unlike most other candidates, however, this will not stop him from plunging ahead in the 2024 race.
It compels him to push harder for the victory. Donald Trump remains unique in the pantheon of politicians in American history. He alone courts controversy at incendiary levels and yet constantly manages to evade having to pay the ultimate price for such controversy.
In fact, Trump is rewarded.
Here again, is an example of what makes Trump such a hard figure for the GOP to quit. They’ve never had a candidate like this. What’s more, the base loves him. My readers understand that I favor my state governor, Ron DeSantis, in 2024. Yet, I cannot help to fret that the very qualities that would make DeSantis an excellent president are the same exact attributes that will work against him in the 2024 GOP Primary.
Trump is courting more controversy with his insistence on relitigating the outcome of the 2020 election outcome as well as his obsession with rewriting the history of the January 6 riot (for the definitive explanation of how we should view that riot, see my recent piece on that). Almost every election-denying Republican candidate in the 2022 Midterms lost to the alternative in their respective races. And while most Americans do not view 1/6 as another 9/11 (because, despite what the Democrats say, it was not another 9/11), most voters have an unfavorable view of that terrible event (as well they should).
Further, six out of ten Americans polled believe that Trump instigated the riot and should be charged for having instigated that riot.
A Strategic Defeat for Donald Trump in 2024?
Heading into 2024, the Republicans were looking to be free and clear of these absurdities. Whether there was widespread cheating in 2020 (I happen to believe there were some improprieties) or if Trump secretly planned the events on 1/6 (there’s little proof that he did anything more than gin up the crowd that day), the fact remains that most voters are not where Trump is.
But because Trump is the magnetic force attracting all media and voter attention to him—and since these two issues are Trump’s energizing factors in 2024—these two unpopular matters will come to define the Republican Party’s platform in 2024.
Hence, unless there is an honest-to-God financial crash at least as bad as what the country endured in 2008 (let’s hope not for all our sakes), Trump is likely to either get the Republican nomination or split the party so badly that the actual nominee is too weak to beat the Democrats.
If Trump is the nominee in 2024 (a very serious probability, given how unwilling to engage with Trump Ron DeSantis has been), he will fixate on his election claims and his rewriting of the January 6 riot.
By focusing on these two unpopular issues, then, Trump will give cover to the egregious violations and horrific failures that Joe Biden has encountered and allow the Democrats to play to their strengths on the campaign trail while Republicans are seen as both too radical and continuing to fight the previous election’s battles.
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Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who serves as a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive.com. Weichert is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as a contributing editor at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower(Republic Book Publishers), The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (March 28), and Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.