Is there hope for 2024’s anti-Trumpers?
The whispers have gotten much louder lately (mainly the negative nellie-types who give up before they even try something new) from those claiming a large Republican presidential primary field virtually guarantees a Donald Trump victory. The pessimists assert that the pond of “anyone-but-Trump” voters is only so wide and so deep, and if there’s a gaggle of also-rans each dipping their toe to try and dominate, the water will dissipate quickly – and become mud.
Granted, there are many assumptions going into this line of thinking, most of which seem to be true. First, the former president starts with a huge advantage: a solid block of supporters who not only won’t consider another candidate, they threaten to withhold their votes from the eventual winner if Trump is bumped to the side. Second, the chances of one not-Trump candidate consolidating enough of the anyone-but-Trump backing to compete with Trump for state victories are quite long indeed. Lastly, there are only so many resources available to the challenger group to divide among them, while Trump enjoys universal name recognition and the ground troops to crush the upstarts in a piecemeal fashion – or all at once.
Throw in the Biden Justice Department’s latest witch hunt-like indictment, and Trump will receive that much more support from his already enraged base.
Nevertheless, the 2024 GOP field is growing, stirring comparisons to the unruly 2016 campaign, when Trump secured the party nomination with far less than a majority of the total votes in the early competitive primaries. Fact: Trump’s opponents weren’t able to come together and agree on a single standard-bearer to beat him.
Recall how Marco Rubio became the establishment’s candidate after Jeb Bush fell apart. But according to polls, up to two-thirds of the GOP vote was already dedicated to “outsider” candidates. Therefore, Rubio never had a chance. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz established himself as the principled conservatives’ favorite choice but wasn’t able to win over enough of the not-Trump vote to capture the delegates he’d need to edge Trump out. And Ohioan John Kasich, whose hanger-on candidacy wasn’t clearly defined at any point, sapped still more not-Trump support from the others.
Is it déjà vu all over again? And if it is, why hasn’t anyone learned the lessons from 2016? In a piece titled “Are the Anti-Trump GOP Forces Starting to Implode?”, the always-in-need-of-a-counterpoint liberal Jonathan Martin wrote at Politico Magazine recently:
“For anti-Trump Republicans, faith in the invisible hand has taken on a whole new meaning that has nothing to do with Adam Smith. They’re forever waiting for something or somebody to stop Trump.
“Now it’s local and federal prosecutors. Or maybe it’s a killer takedown on a debate stage from Chris Christie or some other candidate willing to commit to a political murder-suicide. That’s a task, incidentally, that could be more difficult given that the Republican National Committee is planning to require that candidates garner 40,000 individual donors from 20 states to appear in the initial debates — and isn’t inclined to back down from that threshold, I’m told.
“Or maybe, and yes, you do hear this in private conversations all the time, Mother Nature will take its course on Trump before the election. But hope is not a strategy. And not only must trailing candidates be willing to submit to an intervention, but voters do, too.”
I don’t often agree with Jonathan Martin’s take on Republican politics, but in this piece, compiled just after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina senator Tim Scott announced their candidacies, there’s a grain of truth. As would be expected from a liberal journo writing for a liberal rag like Politico, Martin derided DeSantis for a botched campaign introduction, as though anyone, and I mean anyone, will remember the Twitter foul-up months from now.
Martin gave much credit to Tim Scott for his opening speech, and rightly so. And to his credit, Martin pointed out that much of Scott’s early public support is from representatives of the old Bush/Romney GOP, which certainly won’t endear the South Carolinian to the MAGA grassroots. The consultant class from the old days must be having difficulty finding work in these times, but there are probably enough establishment backers to keep them afloat.
Sen. Tim Scott is seen as the nicest candidate in the GOP field, which will help him… some. And he’ll be well-funded, which will allow him to remain in the race longer than others who may not even make it to the fall – Asa Hutchinson, anyone? – which means, if there is such a thing as the anti-Trump Republican vote, gentleman Tim should earn his share.
Addressing Martin’s question, “Are the Anti-Trump GOP Forces Starting to Implode”, I’d argue yes, and no. Yes because, like in 2016, the not-Trumpers have yet to settle on a main contender. No because, it’s not even the mid-point in June and voters are still mostly distracted by whatever Trump does on a daily basis. As I’ve mentioned a lot lately, if the former president continues with his buffoonish TRUTH Social posts, persuadable people are bound to tire of it.
I know a couple of folks who’ve already had it. Can Trump get them back? Remains to be seen.
At any rate, the 2024 GOP field has almost taken its full shape, and many interested observers wonder why Trump’s detractors haven’t gotten farther in their attempts to take down the ultra-controversial lifelong real estate developer and tabloid celebrity-turned first-time politician-turned president of the United States. There’ve been political followers who’ve rejected Trump from the very beginning, and it’s no secret why they haven’t been successful in their attempts to “expose” him as the cad and cretin they make him out to be.
I can think of three possibilities. First, one of the biggest issues for the anti-Trump crowd is that it’s much harder to be against someone and sustain momentum than it is to be for someone and have the feeling last a long, long time, if not indefinitely.
This is mostly due to Trump having already been thoroughly vetted, so there’s not much that’s coming out today that hasn’t been hashed over in one form or another. Even the so-called “investigations” into Trump reek of spoiled meat, since they all more or less run together without offering anything novel or useful. The people who back Trump aren’t about to be moved, which is the primary reason he continues to enjoy widespread popularity. Another reason the anti-Trump opposition might be dwindling is it’s concentrated (mostly) on one individual, and therefore, when Donald Trump eventually leaves the political scene, if he ever does, the movement will theoretically die.
By now, Trump’s legend has become larger than any single factor. In order to be animated against him, his detractors need to talk about him – a lot. Remove Trump from the conversation and there’s nothing left for the doubters to say. Literally. If Trump were to somehow take himself out of the 2024 GOP race, what would the anti-Trumpers do then? Would they agree on one candidate? It’s highly doubtful.
Could it be said these people are simply anti-MAGA as well as anti-Trump?
A third reason the anti-Trump effort has failed to catch fire is because the disjointed ruling elite group of former Bush neoconservatives, Mitt Romney country club establishment RINOs and other losers of similar mindset who just resent that Trump changed the GOP without asking them first can’t settle on an alternative.
Several months ago, it looked as though the anti-Trump conglomeration was willing – or at least open to – rallying behind Ron DeSantis as their standard-bearer. The fact that DeSantis remains in a strong second position in the polls demonstrates that much of his support still exists. The question is whether the establishmentarians who prefer Nikki Haley or Tim Scott will give up their first-choice to join the general anti-Trump quest to be rid of Trump.
Sooner or later, it will become obvious (if it hasn’t already) that Trump isn’t going to beat himself. There’s virtually nothing he can do, say or post that would dislodge his rock-solid base. So the anti-Trump side only makes headway if they, as a collection, unite behind DeSantis – or one of the others, but this is much less likely.
Recollect how in 2008 and 2012, conservatives couldn’t agree on an anti-McCain or anti-Romney lone individual. This year, it’s the establishment and the remnants of conservative anti-Trumpers who are having a tough time coming together. To do so, both the conservatives and ruling elites would need to recognize the potential benefits of working towards a common goal. But could it ever happen?
Is the GOP all MAGA now? Maybe not – there’s still a smattering of old regime adherents, but in most places in the country, if a candidate doesn’t pay homage to the new MAGA attitude among Republicans, they’re not electorally viable.
If MAGA equals Trump, then the anti-Trumpers have that much more of an obstacle to overcome. This isn’t to say that Trump is invincible – far from it. The 45th president has demonstrated, time and again, that he can be his own worst enemy. Also don’t forget that technically speaking, the total number of non-Trump voters exceeds the New Yorker’s tally. Time and events will reveal whether he starts showing weaknesses.
The anti-Trump faction in the Republican party has not imploded – yet – but they also haven’t relented their petty favoritisms and jealousies to constitute a serious threat to Trump’s dominance, either. There’s a lifetime to go in the 2024 GOP race, but somebody, somewhere, had better initiate the process of unifying the competitors. Or the rest will be history before they know it.
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