In 2016 there were two views kicking around the GOP, at least among those pundits who cared to be more than grifters and sycophants. The first was that “the people want Trump, and he is needed to fight the Democrats and the leftist institutions on their own terms.” This is commonly known as the “Flight 93 Election” view, based on the famous essay written by Michael Anton under the pseudonym “Publius Decius Mus.”
The second view is that the first view is bat-guano crazy because character matters, knowledge matters, and personal history matters. Donald Trump, as a candidate, demonstrated that publicly, he does not value any of those things very highly.
I’m going to say a lot here to get to the point, but I feel it’s necessary to cover this ground again. There’s been a lot of gaslighting going on over the past few years, and much of it has been on the GOP side. The private views of members of the president’s party, spoken in places like supermarket aisles and in hushed tones, have expressed frustration, anger and doubt about President Trump. Now the piper is here demanding payment.
Those of us who opposed Trump in the 2016 election by taking the second view, quickly realized that Trump’s presidency, in function if not form, was in many ways a very traditional GOP presidency. His judicial appointments, cabinet appointments, and once free of the Bannonite wing of nationalists, White House staff, have been fairly conventional and defensible by any measure of what a GOP president might do.
Trump’s policies in cutting the red tape of the administrative state, getting America out of the terrible Iran deal, dismantling our entanglements in the Paris Accords (which were nothing more than economic giveaways), and helping to reset personal tax–putting money into every American’s pockets, has strengthened our economy and painted a rosy jobs outlook. This is the good news.
Tariffs, insulting our allies, and Trump’s addiction to Twitter sum up most of the bad news. After a two-year settling-in period, whenever Trump opens his mouth, it could be a wondrous event, or an unmitigated disaster. Again, I can’t say that nobody expected this, because those of us who warned everyone else in 2016 did so knowing it would come.
Those who took the first view thought that maybe Trump would be malleable as president. That he’d be teachable, or steerable in some way. In certain areas, that’s true. But in his central tenets and at the core of his character, Trump is still the mouthy real estate developer from Queens, who takes any opportunity to stiff his contractors, leave banks hanging with his losses, fleece investors, turn on those who defend him, and otherwise comport himself like the caricature of a d**kwad. Nothing is going to change this.
Bad as that may be, the left-Democrat-media axis paints Trump as worse: They say he’s a racist xenophobic schmuck. This is, despite Trump’s impossible-to-break habit of trolling the left, demonstrably false. Trump has had more women in positions of authority than Obama, GW Bush, and Bill Clinton did at similar points in their terms. His own daughter/advisor and her husband are Orthodox Jews. Trump complied with the law Congress passed under Clinton and moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, that nation’s capital.
It seems, however, that the bad is outweighing the good, at least for the GOP. Again, don’t say that those of us who took the second view didn’t warn of this happening. Over and over, we warned that the GOP may not survive a Trump term, simply because the things he says, tweets and does are so unpopular among so many. Trump is not, and has never been, a conservative, and is only a Republican in the sense that he overthrew the party to get where he is.
Joe Walsh, who unequivocally took the first viewpoint in 2016, cheering Trump as the people’s man, the one who can bring it to the Democrats, is now running a primary campaign against the same guy he cheered in 2016.
Those who feel that Trump should not win in 2020 cite the fact that Erick Erickson, the proprietor of this site, more or less kicked off the #NeverTrump movement four years ago when he disinvited Trump from the RedState Gathering in Atlanta. I was there that evening and understand why Erick did it–and I agreed with him. Erick has now come out in support of Trump, mostly for the “good news” reasons I outlined above.
People who think it’s okay for Joe Walsh to hop the fence from Trump Humper to Never Trumper also think Erick shouldn’t “throw stones in glass houses.” But really, who’s the one basing their decision on reality, and who’s the one basing it on false sanctimony?
Trump’s presidency in his first term has not been as bad as many of his early detractors (myself included) believed it would be. The “worst case scenarios”–war with North Korea, nuclear conflict, Russia invading Lithuania, etc.–have not come to pass. We’re not at war in any new places and it’s looking like we might wind down the one we are fighting in Afghanistan. Again, good news.
The trade war with China is about as bad as we thought it would be. We don’t have a wall on our southern border, and Trump is unlikely to build one. We haven’t repealed Obamacare, but it’s about as dead as it can get. Our national debt and government spending are still out of control. And the war between Trump and his media enemies has turned from cold to lava hot. None of this is good for America.
Honestly, I’d love to see someone better–with better character, better conservative chops, better personal history, better commitment to telling the truth, and better understanding of some of the problems America faces–run and win the presidency. But also honestly, that person doesn’t seem to exist in the race for the White House, certainly not on the Democratic side.
The GOP is facing the “oh s**t” moment of realizing that Trump won’t change, and he’s in peril of losing an election he should be winning. Now they want to see if 2016 can be undone, the piper paid, and let’s heal this gaping wound.
That’s not going to happen, not within the GOP at least.
The best many who oppose Trump can hope for is limiting the damage, licking the GOP’s wounds, and hunkering down for four years of grift fundraising against a Democratic administration, perhaps Joe Biden.
As sad as that seems, a Biden presidency will be filled with just as many malapropisms, gaffes and cluelessness as Trump’s seems to be. Except the media will mightily cover for Biden’s errors, after they magnified (and at times, manufactured) Trump’s.
Possibly there will be a third-party or independent challenger. Perhaps Justin Amash will get drafted by the Libertarians (the political party, the one that used to worship Ron Paul), who will finally pull up from their weed-and-weirdness roots into a position that fits the political beliefs of most Millennials who call themselves conservatives. That would be refreshing, but there’s little energy so far to push past the inertia, at least that I see.
Right now, the best option would be a miraculous transformation by Trump himself. At least a calling-off of the tariffs and an end to the damaging trade war with China. True, one day, we’ll need to slay the monster of intellectual property theft, government and corporate corruption, influence peddling, and outright military intimidation brewing in Beijing, but right now that’s a war that America–and Trump–will likely lose. The Chinese will simply tighten the screws until Trump is out of office.
Failing a miracle, we may see ourselves riding this bomb down to the ground, and exploding with it. To be honest, I’d rather do that than hedge myself into voting for someone I don’t trust. In 2016, I ended up throwing my vote away to Evan McMullin, who turned out to be anything but a conservative, and ended up a big-mouthed jerk with no moral authority or useful following.
As it stands now, 2020 is still Trump’s election to lose, and he’s doing everything in his power to lose it. Those who cheered for the man in 2016 need to pay that piper before they can begin to redeem themselves–especially the ones who think simply jumping sides will fix anything at all.