Think Trump goes away if he loses in 2024? Think again. Every time Republicans refuse to repudiate Trump, they make him stronger.
It’s one of the first things you say when you get married.
“For better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health… ‘til death do us part." You don’t
really think about it too hard, because in the euphoria of the moment, It's kind of a buzz kill.
But maybe it is time for Republicans – and all of us -- to think about it in the context of Donald Trump’s death-grip on the GOP.
The sense one gets from the pundit class and the Reddit addicts is that if Trump is the GOP nominee but loses yet again to Joe Biden in the general election, Republicans will finally be able to shove Trump aside, come to their senses, and regain their footing as a conservative party that nominates sane, electable candidates who run on electable right-of-center platforms. That some semblance of normalcy will return.
Somewhere Albert Einstein is screaming his famous definition of insanity.
The more likely outcome – based on recent history – is that the minute Trump is declared the loser of the 2024 race, he will instantly become the presumptive favorite to win the Republican nomination in 2028.
And again in 2032.
And again until… well, until Donald Trump finally dies.
When this hypothesis is floated for scrutiny among the politically involved, the first reaction is to scoff and dismiss it. Surely, they reason, if Trump loses again in 2024, the GOP will finally see the light on move on.
However, what we are seeing in the Republican Party’s reaction to the Mar-a-Lago documents indictment tells you a very different story. Sure, there are a few outliers. Bill Barr said that “if half of what’s in the indictment is true, he’s toast.”
But most Republican candidates have fallen in goose-step lock-step behind Trump, brushing off the Mar-a-Lago documents allegations not as evidence of Trump's guilt, but as evidence of a politically motivated DoJ marching to the orders of a Democratic President who wants to take out his most intimidating political rival.
And now, the most stunning development to date: we have a “smoking gun” in the form of an audio tape that captures Trump in the very act of committing an extremely serious crime. Crimes, actually.
Once upon a time (think Watergate), the Republican faithful stubbornly claimed that they would refuse to turn on their President until investigators produced a “smoking gun,” a metaphor for concrete, indisputable evidence that Nixon had committed a crime. Then, after fighting all the way to the Supreme Court and losing 8-0, Nixon was forced to release the contents of a conversation in which he personally authorized a plan that would direct the CIA to request that the FBI cease an investigation into Watergate on the grounds of “national security.” The recording proved that Nixon was guilty of participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The emergence of “smoking gun” evidence was the death knell for Nixon’s Presidency. Virtually all lingering support for Nixon evaporated. Barry Goldwater led a group of Republican Senators who went to the White House to inform the president that there were sufficient votes to impeach and convict, and Nixon hastily resigned to avoid that humiliation. Nixon left office within four days of the release of the tape.
Now, thanks to CNN, we have the complete audio recording of Donald Trump admitting to possessing top secret documents, sharing them with individuals who do not have the clearance to see them, acknowledging that as a former president he no longer has the authority to de-classify such documents, and volunteering that his motivation for retaining these documents was for their potential value to damage political opponents.
Please, reader, take the time to read every word in this two-minute recording, with underscoring added to draw attention to Trump’s quotations in which he most flagrantly admits to possessing and sharing secret government documents, explaining that his rationale for retaining the documents was to damage political opponents, and his acknowledgment that he had no authority or power to declassify the documents now that he was no longer president.
Trump: “These are bad sick people…”
Other: “That… that was your coup. You know, against you…”
Trump: “Well it started right at the beginning…”
Other: “Like when Milley is talking about, ‘Oh you’re going to try to do a coup.’ No, they were trying to do that before you even were sworn in.”
Other: “That’s right… trying to overthrow your election.”
Trump: “Well with Milley, let me see that, I’ll show you an example…he said that I wanted to attack Iran, isn’t it amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him. They presented me this – this is off the record but – they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him.”
Trump: “We looked at -- This was him. This wasn’t done by me, this was him. All sorts of stuff pages long… wait a minute… let’s see here…”
Trump: “I just found, isn’t that amazing? This totally wins my case you know. Except it is so highly confidential. Secret… it’s secret…for it…look at this… you attack, and...”
Other: “Hillary would print that out all the time, you know…”
Trump: “No, she’d send it to Anthony Weiner…the pervert… umm, by the way, isn’t that incredible?”
Trump: “I was just thinking, because we were talking about it. And you know, he said, ‘He wanted to attack Iran, and what… These are the papers. This was done by the military and given to me. I think we can probably – right?”
Other: “I don’t know…we’ll have to see it… you know… try to…”
Trump: “Declassify it…”
Other: “Figure out a…”
Trump: “See as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
Other: “Now we have a problem.”
Trump: “Isn’t that interesting?”
Trump: “It’s so cool. I mean, it’s so, look, her and I, and you probably almost didn’t believe me, but now you believe me.”
Other: “No, I believed you.”
Trump: “It’s incredible, right?”
Other: “No, they never met a war they didn’t want.”
Trump: “Hey, bring some, uh, bring some Cokes in please.”
Better yet, citizen, go online and listen to the voices – Trump’s, his staffers, and a writer – as they brazenly cackle and joke about the top-secret documents Trump is sharing. Hear the fawning sycophants who simply can’t wait to jump in and stroke Trump’s ego, echoing his every thought, and approving of his every utterance. Listen to Trump as he clearly labels the documents as secret. Listen to the papers shuffle as Trump clearly appears to be holding classified documents out for review by people who have no security clearances. Then cringe as he assesses the value of the documents in carrying out his own plans for retribution against political enemies.
There are smoking guns, and then there are billowing, belching cannons.
That today’s Republicans lack any of the principle and love of country that marked the Republican titans who firmly ushered Richard Nixon to the door is news to no one.
Nikki Haley and Mike Pence have both been interviewed since the tape came out, and both were asked to comment specifically on it. Both scurried to hide behind some high-minded notion that Trump deserves his day in court. On CNN, Haley was terrified of going anywhere near it: "We're gonna let the courts play that out and do whatever."
It's no surprise that the current Republican presidential candidates are supporting Trump’s claim that he is the victim of a DoJ weaponized by Joe Biden to bring down his most threatening political rival. These Republicans have done the calculus and decided that they cannot afford to alienate Donald Trump’s base… so they line up behind him. No surprise.
What’s baffling, however, is the failure of the modern-day Republicans fail to understand that by lining up behind Trump, they make him stronger.
Trump’s world is singular in scope and binary in its demands. There is only one issue: are you loyal to Donald Trump first and foremost, above Constitutional oath, and above Country?
And that issue is ruthlessly binary: if you are not working for Donald Trump, you are the enemy. There is no grey area, no DMZ, no middle ground.
So Ron DeSantis
knuckles under. When the Mar-a-Lago indictment came out, DeSantis evaded taking a position on Trump's actions by saying "Is there a different standard for a Democratic Secretary of State versus a former Republican President?" Republicans scream about Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden, creating false equivalences and hoping to create the impression that what someone else may or may not have done is germane to assessing whether Donald Trump brazenly broke Federal law and
endangered our national security.
What DeSantis, Haley, and Pence are doing is simple: they have prepared soundbytes that allow them to duck and cover. They simply avoid dealing with the "smoking gun."
And in jumping aboard Trump’s claims of victimization, they lend their credibility and weight to Trump’s assertions that he is the injured party. They make him stronger.
The very Republicans who are running against Donald Trump for the nomination are the people who are working hardest to ensure that he will win it.
These Republicans do not seem to understand that Trump is raising millions of dollars that should be a Republican war chest to defeat Joe Biden, but large portions of that money is being diverted to pay an army of lawyers defending Donald Trump against a growing list of indictments.
And if Ron DeSantis fails to capture the nomination in 2024, he will become a footnote in history, a Scott Walker reboot, just another governor who Trump crushed for breakfast en route to the nomination. If Nikki Haley fails to win the nomination in 2024, she will be tainted with primary defeat that ended the Presidential aspirations of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee. When Mike Pence loses badly in 2024, he will be remembered as the guy that Donald Trump killed figuratively in 2024 after failing to do so literally in 2021. Republicans will need to bring fresh meat for slaughter in 2028.
Yes, in all likelihood, Donald Trump will run against Joe Biden for President in 2024, and, also in all likelihood, he will lose. He will immediately begin saying the election was stolen from him again. He will motivate angry mobs to wreak carnage. He will once again create a litmus test to demand that Republicans echo his charges of a stolen election.
And, like Yogi Berra's famous experience of "deja vu all over again," they will all do it. Because they are afraid of alienating Trump’s base, getting primaried, and losing their jobs.
Trump’s devout followers will lap up his fresh new lies, as they always do. They will harden in their hatred for the left, the DoJ, and for the Federal Government in general. The tight knot of loyal supporters will not grow. But it will not shrink.
The status quo will endure.
So when the first polls for the 2028 nomination are taken in 2025, guess who will be sitting on top of the Republican pack, still with an absolutely unshakeable 35% to 40% of the Republican Party? By then you’ll see Glenn Youngkin reprising the role of Ron DeSantis, the savior Southern governor who will be The Anointed One, the Great White Hope of the Greying White Party. That same poll will show Youngkin with 22% of the vote… a number that will not change for three years until he becomes that third Southern governor to not understand that Donald Trump owns enough of the GOP that there is no party for the anybody else.
What does it all mean for the rest of us?
Next time you attend a wedding ceremony, listen closely to the vows. Watch as the handsome young groom and pretty bride eagerly recite their vows. Watch as they repeat the words “til death do us part” with the exact same intonation, pace, and tone as they have accorded to sickness, health, have and to hold, being richer or poorer.
Except that "til death do us part" is the only vow that is a permanent, unchangeable, non-negotiable, unmovable state. It is climate, the rest of the vows are weather. When you sign up for “til death do us part,” you have made a lifetime commitment. It is just a question of who goes first.
The Democratic Party
and all the independent voters in the nation cannot get rid of Donald Trump. Yes, it is critical that we all work to defeat him in the general election, but Trump will keep returning as the Republican nominee like a zombie wack-a-mole in an arcade game gone mad.
Because only Republicans can deny Trump the leadership of the Republican Party. And the leaders of the Republican Party refuse to condemn him, and in that failure, they make him stronger.
So settle in, America. Donald Trump is not going anywhere. He will stain our national conscience, our reputation, our international stature, our belief in the rule of law, our devotion to the Constitution, and our pride in our country until a Greater Power makes His or Her final judgment.
And by “greater power,” no, we are not referring to Ron DeSantis.
Now, please rise, and let us ask the Republican Party… “Do you really want to take this man, Donald Trump, to be your nominee, til death do you part?”
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