It’s become clear in news stories lately that, as Trump indictments are on the verge of doubling to four, concerns by Republican Party leaders over Trump being the GOP standard bearer are slowly starting to increase. A few immediate thoughts come to mind --
1. “Starting to” seems a wee bit late since his popularity in the party and none of his indictments -- nor his being found liable for, as the judge noted, the standard equivalent of rape -- should have come as a shock.
2. Reading that Republican leaders are concerned about Trump being nominated as party leader sound like an article about the 2016 Republican primary.
3. If Republican Party leaders have concerns about Trump, perhaps they shouldn’t have paved the road for the past six years to get him to this point.
4. Since Republican Party leaders don’t want the GOP to be seen as the Party of Trump, it probably isn't a good idea to not criticize Trump for his indictments and being found liable for rape, nor for for the GOP-controlled House to be talking about “expunging” Trump’s two impeachments.
5. And just who exactly do they suggest the candidate to rally behind should be? In distant second place and crashing is the guy who says Black people got benefits in slavery, books and men wearing dresses should be banned, and malaria is on the rise in his state. Third place is a tech business multi-millionaire with zero political experience, and is a Hindu which is causing outrage among the intolerant evangelical right of the GOP base. And fourth place is Trump’s former VP for whom the Insurrectionist-base built a hangman’s noose.
But those are just some immediate thoughts about GOP hand-wringing over Trump, and not even the point here. That's just an appetizer, something to give me time to warm up my typing fingers.
The point here is that the Republican Party has not only found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place, but they themselves are the ones who moved the rock into position right next to the hard place.
To start with, as I wrote here a month or two ago, I am sure that Trump will be the Republican Party nominee, so all this belated GOP handwringing is pretty much meaningless and an exercise in futility. I’m not even sure if a conviction would hurt his chances in the party. (The General Election is another matter entirely.) More on that in a moment.
The short version of why Trump is pretty much guaranteed the GOP nomination is that for a candidate to win a state primary, it isn’t necessary to get 50% of the vote -- although Trump is above 50% right now. You just need to get a plurality of votes in a primary to win. And right now, there is 30% of the party’s base that will vote for Trump regardless of indictments or almost anything. After all, he has two indictments already and that rape liability, and his polls number have gone up in the party. And as much as analysts like to say, “Well, the January 6 case is actually really serious, even more than espionage, so that’s when things may change” -- the reality is that this 30% Trump base already knows about the Insurrection and the pending charges, and aren’t bothered by them. Most likely think the election was stolen from him, that the charges are totally fake, it’s a witch hunt, it's all political, and that Trump did nothing wrong. So, even if Trump was convicted and in prison, even that probably wouldn’t sway them. (And the further reality is that it’s near-impossible that there will be a conviction before the GOP Convention or before Trump has enough delegates locked up. So, we’re just talking about him having “charges.”) Of the remaining 70% of Republicans, let’s say Trump can only get a mere 10% of those people. That gives him 40% of the GOP vote. What current Republican candidate running for the nomination even comes close to getting 40%? After DeSantis hovering at 15.5% (in Nate Silver’s polling average), everyone else is in single digits. That’s all Trump needs to win every state in a landslide -- and breeze to the nomination.
As candidates drop out, some of those remaining will pick up votes. Though by that point, Trump's lead could be nearing (or past) insurmountable. And again, Trump's starting point is 40%.
There have been several articles lately that 37-year-old, tech multi-millionaire Vivek Ramaswamy, now remarkably in third place among Republican candidates, is on the rise! So, the stories ponder, could he perhaps be the candidate to get the party nomination? (Never mind whether or not he any qualifications or business being President of the United States. Besides, hey, the country did so great last time with a Republican multi-millionaire businessman who had zero experience.) Vivek Ramaswamy is polling at just 6.3% -- to Trump’s 52.4%. Let’s put this in perspective: I am only 6.4% away from passing Vivek Ramaswamy. I have an overwhelmingly better chance of getting the GOP nomination than he does to passing Trump. (And hey, with margin of error factored in, I might even be closer. Or ahead of him...!)
To be fair, I can absolutely imagine the possibility of Trump not getting the GOP nomination. I just can’t imagine it with any substance to support my imagination.
But all that is just “the rock.” We haven’t even gotten yet to the hard place.
This is the hard place.
Let’s get back to that “imagine” world. Let’s say Republicans, in fact, turn away in droves from Trump after his next two indictments. And some other Republican gets the party’s nomination -- it doesn’t matter who, anybody. Fill in your favorite, best choice. So, that candidate wins, and Trump actually loses!
Let’s see a show of hands of people who believe that if Trump really, truly loses and does not get the Republican nomination, he will go away gently into that good night. That Trump will say, “Well, folks, I lost. Fair and square. Any help the party needs, I’ll be there. If you need my donor list, it’s yours!”
Hands? Anyone? Way in the back? Anybody??? No? I didn’t think so.
By the way, now add to Trump's inability to accept losing that he'll be facing, more than even before, the reality of prison, unable to stop the DOJ, even if it's the Republican who wins the White House...since that's the hated enemy who beat him. Worse, not only beat him, but intentionally tried to get in his way.
If Trump doesn’t get the Republican nomination, it seems pretty likely that he will burn the GOP down. Because that’s actually what malignant narcissists do. And Trump is a malignant narcissist, which is a very specific psychological term, separate from a mere garden variety narcissist. A malignant narcissist will burn down his house, if he doesn’t get what he wants, to ensure that no one else gets it.
Far easier to imagine is Trump raging -- “The elections were rigged. These were fake elections. They were stolen from me. I won all the elections. I won the most delegates – by far. Because I’m your favorite president. They’re all part of the Deep State. This is a fake convention. It's election fraud. The convention was rigged. I’m the real Republican nominee.”
And it’s worse than Trump ranting that he really won. Because it’s far more likely, bordering on near-certain, that in slamming the process, Trump will also tell his 30% base to not vote for the GOP nominee. That they should write-in votes for him. Or just not vote, period. Not vote for any Republican, in any race, because they’re all in on it. Or perhaps he’ll run as a third-party candidate if it’s not too late. And if it is too late, then that’s rigged, too.
That’s the problem Republicans have made for themselves -- as they cry out about finding one of the candidates running who can beat Trump. Or hope dearly that every candidate but the one Best Alternative will drop out. Or pray down on their knees that some Great Candidate not currently running will declare for the race and sweep the field. In which case, if they get their unlikely, glorious wish and any of those things actually happen -- Trump will then destroy the party.
Now, yes, I could be completely wrong about all this, and maybe some Republican, somehow will defeat Trump, and he will be totally supportive of whoever beats him, or he'll just go away quietly, taking his loss in graceful silence. But that requires being shown specifically where my observation is wrong.
In lieu of that, there are only two possibilities Republican face:
One is that Trump will get the nomination, and every Republican candidate in the country will have to support him and his criminal indictments and rape liability as leader of the party -- or the other, that some other candidate improbably gets the GOP nomination, in which case Trump in his malignant narcissism will then burn down the party.
None of this is to say that Trump can’t win the General Election, or that other Republicans can’t win in their races. That’s a totally separate matter. I do think both are problematic for Republicans in 2024, most especially Trump because of the burdens he carries, including his emotional mania, but we elect presidents by Electoral Votes, and states have their own dynamics and voter suppression laws. So, Republicans doing well in 2024 is still a very real possibility. I'm only talking here about the GOP race to nominate its party leader.
However, I do believe that all of next year’s elections are still a hurdle for the GOP. After all, whoever their nominee is, Trump will likely be under four indictments -- at least four. And he will have been found liable of the equivalent of rape. And evidence will continue to get out, against the man almost every Republican candidate will have been vociferously defending for the past four years. Or eight years. And being Trump, he will be ranting endlessly about how unfairly he’s been treated and cheated – whether he’s the nominee or not, sucking air from all Republicans running. And whoever the nominee is, it is not unreasonable to think that just 3% of Republicans -- who are not the base -- might not want any part of supporting today's GOP who have been enabling and defending Trump. Which would be devastating. Losing 3% of your party turns a razor thin 51-49 loss into a a 54-46 tsunami.
And the Republican Party did all of this itself, to itself. The Republican Party, by choice, over the past six years, moved the rock and hard place right next to each other.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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