The GOP Primary Might Be Over Before It Starts
Category: Op/EdVia: hallux • 2 weeks ago • 8 comments
By: Tom Nichols - The Atlantic
Senator Tim Scott today joined the ranks of GOP candidates hoping to displace Donald Trump as the party’s nominee. America would be better off if one of them could win, but the GOP is no longer a normal political party.
Thanos From Queens
Tim Scott of South Carolina joined the field of Republican contenders for the GOP presidential nomination today. He’s polling in single digits among primary voters, as are all of the other (so far) declared candidates. Only Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida is managing to get out of the basement—rumors are that he will announce his candidacy this week—and even he is getting walloped by Donald Trump in polls of the Republican faithful.
Scott seems like a classic no-hoper presidential prospect but a strong choice for vice president, which of course is why some weaker candidates run and then bow out (see “Harris, Kamala” ). The current GOP field, however, includes at least some politicians who should be credible alternatives to Trump: In any other year, people such as DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Asa Hutchinson, all current or former governors from the South, would be obvious contenders. Instead, their campaigns are flailing about in limbo while the rest of the field is populated by the likes of the wealthy gadfly Vivek Ramaswamy and the radio-talk-show host Larry Elder.
Of course, in a normal year, a twice-impeached president who has been held liable for sexual abuse would do the decent thing and vanish from public life.
The United States desperately needs a normal presidential election, the kind of election that is not shadowed by gloom and violence and weirdos in freaky costumes pushing conspiracy theories. Americans surely remember a time when two candidates (sometimes with an independent crashing the gates) had debates, argued about national policy, and made the case for having the vision and talent and experience to serve as the chief executive of a superpower. Sure, those elections were full of nasty smears and dirty tricks, but they were always recognizable as part of a grand tradition stretching all the way back to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams—rivals and patriots who traded ugly blows —of contenders fighting hard to secure the public’s blessing to hold power for four years.
Such an election, however, requires two functional political parties. The Republicans are in the grip of a cult of personality, so there’s little hope for a normal GOP primary and almost none for a traditional presidential election. Meanwhile, Republican candidates refuse to take a direct run at Donald Trump and speak the truth—loudly—to his voters; instead, they talk about all of the good that Trump has done but then plead with voters to understand that Trump is unelectable. (Hutchinson, who is unequivocal in his view of Trump, has been an honorable exception here and has called for Trump to drop out.)
The electability argument about Trump is not only amoral, but it also might not even be true : Trump might be able to win again. In normal times, there’s nothing wrong with “electability” arguments. It is hardly the low road, if presented with two reasonable candidates in a primary, to choose the one who can prevail in a general election. But such a choice assumes the existence of “reasonable” candidates. Instead, some of the Republicans who are running or leaning toward running against Trump are saying, in effect, that Trump really should be the candidate, but he can’t win—instead of saying, unequivocally, that no decent party should ever nominate this man again, whether he can win or not.
Republican contenders are caught in a bind. If they run against Trump, they will likely lose. But if they don’t run against Trump, they will certainly lose—to Trump, and then everyone in America loses. GOP primary candidates want to pick up Trump’s voters without overtly selling them Trump’s lies and conspiracy theories, which is why the “electability” dodge is nothing but pandering and cowardice. Not that any of these hopefuls have tried to lay a punch on Trump: Haley is AWOL—is she even still running?—and DeSantis is busy clomping around with flaming wastebaskets on his feet as he tries to stomp out fires he’s already set.
Tim Scott is an especially vexing case, because he has a life story that should have made him the natural anti-Trump candidate in every way. A religious man who triumphed over poverty, got an education, and became a successful businessman, his life and character are a photo-negative image of Trump’s. And yet, Scott can’t help himself: He’s “thankful” for Trump’s years in office.
None of these Republicans are going to overcome the Thanos from Queens, who, with a snap of his fingers, will soon make half of the GOP field disappear.
These Republicans are likely waiting for a miracle , an act of God that takes Trump out of contention. And by “act of God,” of course, they mean “an act of Fani Willis or Jack Smith.” This is a vain hope: Without a compelling argument from within the Republican Party that Fani Willis and Jack Smith or for that matter, Alvin Bragg, are right to indict Trump—as Bragg has done and Willis and Smith could do soon—and that the former president is a menace to the country, Trump will simply brush away his legal troubles and hope he can sprint to the White House before he’s arrested.
No one is going to displace Trump by running gently. A candidate who takes Trump on, with moral force and directness, might well lose the nomination, but he or she could at least inject some sanity into the Republican-primary process and set the stage for the eventual recovery—a healing that will take years—of the GOP or some reformed successor as a center-right party. DeSantis would rather be elected as Trump’s Mini-Me. (It might work.) Hutchinson has tried to speak up, but too quietly. Haley, like so many other former Trump officials, is too compromised by service to Trump to be credible as his nemesis. Tim Scott is perfectly positioned to make the case, but he won’t.
A Republican who thinks Trump can be beaten in a primary by gargling warm words such as electability is a Republican in denial. Trump is already creating a reality-distortion field around the primary, as he will again in the general election. Is it possible that the GOP base would respond to some fire and brimstone about Trump, instead of from him? We cannot know, because it hasn’t been tried—yet.
If just one of those republicans could grow a back bone and tell the truth for once about trmp!
LOL, one more reason for the republican base to stay home in '24, although I did smirk a bit when his nephew introduced him as his uncle tim...
The rest of the GOP field is hoping for a miracle.
We already know that there is no behavior by Trump that could turn MAGA against him.
I think he could fuck a goat in the middle of 5th avenue and raise money off it.
Trump has not even begun to attack DeSantis yet. The shitstorm between them is in the future.
The really comical part about this article is that in the run up to the 2016 elections a large majority of the liberal left were convinced that Trump, as a political outsider, had absolutely little to no chance of winning against Hillary Clinton. Many are still po'd about it. So why shouldn't any of the GOP front runners be any different in 2024? Another reason why I never trust presidential political polls.
Born of cowardliness the cynics on the right are silently praying for the courts to nail Trump to his cross all the while waging culture wars to hopefully blame the Democratic Party for his self-immolation. "It's hard rain a fallin'".