“As of now, he’s our starting quarterback, but I want everyone to know that there will be fierce competition for the job. Rest assured, the top performer will be taking the snaps on opening day.”
This sounds hauntingly like a dreaded “public vote of confidence,” the always half-hearted false assurance of job security that most athletes not named Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers receive from coaches at the opening of training camp a half a year after the completion of the previous mediocre season where the team missed the playoffs -- again. It typically involves a highly paid quarterback who everyone was formerly excited about but hasn’t panned out the way he was expected to do and the team’s exasperated front office is ready to overtly concede that if the signal caller doesn’t cut it this year, he’s history.
It's a formal way of saying, “you’re no more valuable to us than a piece of cordwood and you’re getting the boot unless you step it up and produce.”
A similar phenomenon could be taking place in today’s Republican party where prospects look especially bright for a takeover of the majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives after this year’s midterm elections. Through forces not entirely related to the party itself, GOPers are enjoying a wave of positive feelings towards them so they may act as potential saviors from the ravages of senile president Joe Biden’s awful administration.
A perfect storm of inflation, vexing foreign policy dilemmas, a catastrophe-in-the-making at the southern border, an overdose of “woke” cultural serum, the confirmation of a pedophile protecting Supreme Court nominee and the ongoing overhyped saga of COVID-19 have all combined to leave American voters in a historically bad mood. Polls show they have almost no confidence in the present regime to make things better, either, so naturally a great deal of attention is shifting towards who might come after senile Joe.
Much of that focus shines on former president Donald Trump. Trump is not exactly akin to the faltering starting quarterback described above who’s about to be traded or dumped onto the waiver wire, but with things having gotten pretty bad in the country since he left office, voters are no longer willing to settle for a leader who can’t proverbially win games for them.
There’s a growing sentiment that it might not be the greatest outlook for Trump to run again in 2024, or at the very minimum, to ensure he’s tested in the GOP primaries by a slate of Republican candidates who will force him to bring his best “game” to every opportunity to demonstrate his abilities. The “competition” will do Trump good, even if he might see challengers as a blow to his stature and ego.
In a piece titled, “If You Like Donald Trump Then You Want a Real Primary,” The always inimitable conservative bomb thrower Kurt Schlichter wrote at Townhall:
“You can't be a kingmaker if you can't make kings. His bad decisions risk devaluing his brand. A lot of his endorsements are easy, with obvious, sure winners. But he's not cutting it with the harder endorsements. He'll win some, but at this rate, he'll lose a bunch – PA conservatives are not going to vote for a lib in cons clothing just because Trump says to. This kind of error squanders his mystique and makes him look weak and vulnerable...
“A primary will sharpen him and test him. And maybe he fails. Maybe we will see Pompeomania ignite the base's imagination. Maybe Ted Cruz will hit Trump as hard as he's been hitting the libs lately (Cruz's speech on the pedo-tolerating KBJ was legendary). Maybe Ron DeSantis, his wife thankfully cancer-free, steps up and takes it...
“If you dig Trump, do him a favor. Don't coddle him. Demand excellence. Demand he earns what he seeks instead of handing it to him. Now, plenty of Trump fans will be furious about this column. Leaving aside that none of them defended him in print or fought for election integrity, they are simply enabling Trump's worst instincts. Trump is a fighter. He is a warrior. And he needs a war to be his best.”
A convincing argument, no? It’s one that Schlichter has made before -- several times -- and was just as well-reasoned the last time as he was in this one. The California conservative was particularly put off by Trump’s recent decision to endorse TV doctor Mehmet Oz in the upcoming (May 17) Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate primary. Many, many conservatives have commented on this particular race since it’s considered vital to the GOP’s prospects for both retaining a critically important seat and also gaining a majority in the upper chamber.
Winning a senate majority would theoretically stall or halt all of senile Joe’s leftist ideologue court and administration nominees. In other words, it’s a big prize and will have a tangible impact on everyone’s daily lives.
I’m not personally familiar with the intricate details of the Keystone State’s candidates, but Oz himself has articulated a number of weak-kneed liberal issue positions on his show over the years, lending the impression that he harbors latent big government biases. At the very least, Oz appears to be a Johnny-come-lately to the cause of liberty on firearms, abortion, government dictates on COVID, etc. and folks like Schlichter maintain he can’t be trusted to hold firm on the Make America Great Again agenda.
The Oz thing along with some other questionable endorsements have some people scratching their heads and wondering whether Trump has lost some of his mojo since he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower (in June, 2015) and immediately launched his stunning assault on the Washington establishment, a salvo of truth that still resounds to this day. But it almost seems like the unabashed Trump of those times has been influenced and changed by his years in the swamp, to the point where he’s lending his name and endorsement to a TV doctor hack who’s spoken up for gun control, abortion “rights” and transgender causes.
Time will tell. Who knows, perhaps Oz has experienced a Trump-like epiphany and genuinely supports what he claims to believe in 2022. It’s hard to recall now, but Trump’s had lots of head-scratching political statements in his time and evolved quite a bit himself. Besides, Trump met with the man before issuing his endorsement. If Trump was convinced that Oz was on the level, one is tempted to give the former president the benefit of the doubt.
But Schlichter’s greater point is also well taken. Trump does appear to be seeking a “coronation” in the primaries by suggesting that all of his potential competitors will -- or should -- clear the field once he gives the official word that he’s all-in for his Trump campaign barnstorming tour, part three. This is a nice wish -- that the Republican Party is now so united behind him that it wouldn’t even consider picking someone else -- but is it realistic?
It's often said that a day is like a lifetime in politics, and there are a lot of sunrises and sunsets between now and whenever the GOP primary season unofficially kicks off. But one also senses conservatives are edgy about the notion of placing all of their eggs in one basket for a controversy-magnet who will be 78 years old on Election Day in 2024.
Schlichter was quick to highlight how much he admires Trump and would enthusiastically back him in the general election (Kurt didn’t say who he would vote for in the primary) if the New York outsider successfully runs the gauntlet like he did in 2016. You may recall there were a couple non-serious contenders (Mark Sanford and Bill Weld) challenging him in 2020, but neither of them got very far. But what happened, happened in 2020. By the looks of it, Trump likely was cheated out of legitimate legal recourse if not the election result itself. There were more than enough serious irregularities to merit a thorough investigation. In total, did they add up to a reversal of the result? Hopefully we’ll find out if Republicans regain control of Congress and delve deeply into the mystery.
Regardless, Trump should face a primary test. Schlichter was correct in asserting that it would make Trump produce “on the field” but would also provide a forum for others to “show what they’ve got” when the nomination is on the line. At least a few of them, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have demonstrated that they deserve a chance to compete for the position.
DeSantis’s popularity is only rising. The young Floridian has become “the” rising star in conservative Republican politics. It could be said that he learned everything he knows from Trump, but that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
DeSantis is getting arguably more publicity than Trump these days, and it’s almost all positive from a Republican primary voter’s standpoint.
There are others as well. Schlichter mentioned former Trump secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Texas senator (and 2016 runner-up to Trump) Ted Cruz as individuals he’d like to see engage in a battle of policies and gravitas with Trump himself. Not only would such a display be wildly entertaining, it would help everyone in the party sharpen their understanding and articulation of issues. It’s that important.
As of now, Donald Trump is our “starting presidential candidate” but there should be a competition for what amounts to the most consequential election in our lifetimes, and rest assured, the top performer -- and vote getter -- will have his or her name on the ballot on Election Day. 2024 should not be a coronation for Trump -- or any other candidate, for that matter.
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