A well-informed close friend argues that having Trump head the Rethuglican ticket rewards Democrats far and wide in 2024, reversing the House majority and amplifying Senate control. If trends stick, and Trumpism continues its free-fall (even before indictments galore), it’s hard to fault the logic. Not only will Trump, like his demented, midterm acolytes, screw up royally and run a self-destructive, tunnel vision campaign (again), he will most likely lose badly, outstripping the seven million Biden vote plurality. Savvy analyst Rick Wilson is certain Trump gets the nomination and insider David Cay Johnston argues a Trumpist GOP confronts only three bad outcomes.
Republicanism on a good day is a fixed and fixated minority, actively squandering centrists (midterm redux), the essence of a non-expansive, extremist, regional party. There isn’t and won’t be enough party clout even if Trump (magically) corrals all right-wing, libertarian extremists, the slew of literalist, anti-science fundamentalists, plus gun fanatics, racists and militants—in short, the crowd as disgusted with modernity as with Democrats. A Trump nomination cements a suicidal party by shrinking the base while mightily offending non-fanatical, “moderate” Republicans. More Trumpism propels the fierce Never Trumpers on their gleeful and effective crusade to eviscerate the perpetual grifter. That augurs, happily, two split, right-wing bickering parties.
On the small chance that very few wacko primary foes emerge, like DeSantis, the party has a chance to deny Trump—thus saving the greatest political loser and greatest liar from his own worst enemy: Himself. Exiling Trump would be a political gift to a vicious, indefensible criminal who deserves medieval torture, feeling the pain he has caused everyone (including countless cult members who got and died from Covid).
Who stops the runaway train?
The core thing about cults is the undying loyalty—and how many hardcore Trumpers will abandon their “angertainment” messiah and champion, especially for the uncharismatic DeSantis? So Democrats deem DeSantis more dangerous, better at connivance and strategy. The Trump cultist base stays to the bitter end, blindly overlooking his minor foibles like stupidity, ignorance, the indiscretion of a blowhard, mendacity, and the worst imaginable adviser selector, compounded by blithering defiance of good advice from his betters. What a guy, what a nominee, what a miserable, twice-impeached criminal politician for a national audience!
Though with more force than 2016, the establishment GOP elite and most top donors will first oppose Trump as bad for everyone, certainly party stability. But all the ‘16 kings-men did not topple this celebrity sleaze from leveraging his crude, vicious “angertainment” schtick. He still mesmerizes the aggrieved base addled, like him, to turn anguish into cosmic stink, whatever the real-world cost. The insight that Trump is their worst messenger is beyond their ken, accepting broken coals and cold soup in loyalty to the icon of avarice, selfishness, egotism, vanity, deception and criminality. The first five fit diverse billionaires, self-centered public figures, self-appointed geniuses, brain surgeons and a few pundits. But the last, most telling Trump personality core—a career of criminality—separates him from dodgy folks like Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, the Clintons at times, Cruz, Hawley, Ron Johnson, and other lesser jungle creatures who think might is right and they are never wrong.
But if a Trump candidacy opens a wide door through which all Democrats (but Hilary) can drive a tank, what are the downsides to our national political health, if not the world’s? Another round of Trumpism gives open license to every deplorable, every Confederate nutcase, every gun militant, every vicious racist, and every No-Abortion-for-Anyone-Ever sectarian. That makes Donald’s most enduring crime the sponsorship of the most backward and resistant white supremacist forces in America. Like other anti-social types, such deplorables have to be tolerated, but another Trump crusade feeds red meat to reactionaries who debunk American values. The cumulative downsides from another minute of Trumpist media mayhem are immense and enduring, lasting well beyond his or my lifetime. Whether on voting rights, protest rights, abortion rights, civil liberties, fair taxation, even modest checks on onerous business practices, rational tariffs and trade agreements, and above all, the opening gambit against climate change—the great, half-assed wall of Trumpism stands between a civilized democracy and a horror akin to his pal’s Russian tyranny. For me, more Trump means an addiction to irrationality, primitivism and none of the compassion and humanity Jesus taught, thus years more before this pandemic of deplorables is put back in their box, denuded of political leverage.
Two parties, four parties—or what?
One final consideration: a majority questions whether the two national parties have outlived their usefulness. I’d love to see two parties on either side for only then is a pluralistic, European-style coalition government, capable of compromise, on the table. Trumpian disruption could well advance this likelihood. Certainly, we progressives, aghast at what the centrist/right Democratic establishment delivers (or must do to get re-elected) welcomes a legitimate, vibrant Progressive Party (or else no new Progressive Era). We need both provocative left ideas—abolishing multi-billionaires, refusing wars unless directly attacked, very high tax rates for top earners, prohibitions against passing billions to heirs (thus ending permanent family legacies)—along with more viable, popular programs: Medicare for all, free or low cost colleges, superior job training, pro-union protection, workable anti-monopoly laws, greater voter rights plus more accessible voting—and huge step-ups in anti-climate warming funding integrated with sustainable environmental agendas.
Ditto on the right. Trumpers turned away from power (again, by fair elections) would propel much of the hardcore right into the All-American Right-wing Party of Super-patriots and Idiotic Trumpian Rogues (AARPSITR). The suckers on pensions that a greedy, second rate T.V. star has hooked will embrace a Trump-Forever-White-is-Right Party. That leaves centrist business Republicans, data- and logic-bound technocrats, libertarians, and the few moderate, traditional residual conservatives. The country needs to isolate the violent militants itching for another civil war, let the wacko candidates make fools of themselves, then trounce them at the polls until they get bored, go off to the quicksand of prayer, or find isolated distractions elsewhere.
Whither the future—the looming unknown
The implicit reality here comes down to the busted, two party dynamic and how we get to something better. Can a healthy democracy exist when only one centrist-left party slowly absorbs the political currency while the other, Trumpsterized sink of corruption diminishes as a comparable national entity. Agreed, a Trump run enhances the Dem establishment since Biden centrists will thump untenable Trumpers. You don’t need rational “socialists” like Bernie or Warren to beat backward loudmouths—run of the mill Democrats, with less vision and courage, will do nicely. The default to Biden politics answers to rightwing extremism as he remains a viable, coherent, in his own terms defensible champion against open, increasingly nasty enemies of the state.
It’s not clear whether benighted, garden-variety Republicanism (or Democratism) is a better stimulant for Progressive politics vs. another vapid, sensationalized, chaotic Trump circus stunt. I don’t see great positives for progressive candidates from Trump running in 2016 and 2020. Thus, though my pragmatic, short-term left-wing side says, “Run Trump and shred the Republican Party, expanding an already serious schism,” the enlightened, longer term part says, “We need some kind of rational, “conservative, business-class ballast to the muddled middle where most Democrats live.” Or a double split that opens up both parties, even clarifies greater democratic options, even voices for the aggrieved many. So, as always in life, we face rather a messy prospect of mixed blessings, and we must endure the good with the bad without knowing the story’s finale.