Memorial Day is a little more than a week away and it is both the unofficial start of summer and the start of the presidential campaign season. Look for Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis to make it official with a kick-off event over the long weekend. Tim Scott may also jump into the race, as he set up an exploratory committee in April, which usually precedes an official announcement. That will bring the field to nine on the Republican side and two on the Democratic side.
In theory, when you run for office, you are running on a platform that you think makes you the best man for the job. In reality, the first step is to run for the nomination, which revolves around being the best chance to win the general election. You may have a great plan for the office, but if you have no chance to win the general election, the voters are not going to support you in the primary. This is why Vivek Ramaswamy will be this cycle’s Andrew Yang.
Normally, the out of office party has a scramble in their primary, where the candidates make their case for being the nominee. It is one part personality contest and one part argument for beating the incumbent. In the case of the Republicans, this would normally mean who offers the best shot to beat Biden. If it is an open seat where both parties are seeking a fresh face, then the primaries tend to devolve into who has the most institutional support in their respective party.
This is what made the 2016 presidential election so rare. Both parties should have had a scramble, but the Democrats rigged their primary in favor of Clinton. The Republicans were ready to rig their primary for Jeb Bush. That way the party insiders could relive the 1990’s with a Bush – Clinton rubber match. Trump wrecked that for the Republicans by changing the calculus of the primary. He made the race into a no confidence vote for the party and the political establishment.
Fast forward to the upcoming Republican primary and the party has the same problem plus additional problems. The base of the party is still very salty with regards to the party leadership and the political establishment. That turned up in the midterm where turnout was tepid in many races. Last week the Republicans lost a sure thing election in Colorado to a random African. They just lost the Jacksonville Florida mayor’s race, despite having huge advantage in money.
Of course, Trump is even more of a middle-finger to the system now than he was in 2016, which strengthens his appeal to disaffected primary voters. The people the voters hate have been waging jihad against Trump since he left office. No one talks about what he did or did not do in office, because the media is full of threats and warnings about Trump and the people who support him. When Biden warned about white supremacy the other day, every Trump voter got the message.
That is the new element to this cycle. Donald Trump is a rich man who could retire from politics and enjoy himself. He could spend his time doing what he truly loves, which is real estate schemes. Whatever you think about the man, he is really good at real estate schemes, and he has a passion for it. Instead, he chooses to be a martyr in a political fight against the full force of the regime. The sorts of people who keep the country going are naturally sympathetic to what Trump is doing.
This is why none of the other options in the Republican primary have a chance to win the nomination, barring extraordinary events. Dreary dullards like Asa Hutchinson, Nikki Haley and Mike Pence can operate only as avatars for what Trump the political symbol represents, which is a rejection of the establishment. The party would be better served by putting cardboard cutouts of various party hacks on stage. Trump making fun of a silhouette of Mitch McConnell would make good television.
Interestingly, the one candidate who seems to understand what is going to happen is Vivek Ramaswamy, who avoids talking about Trump. He has a lot of money which is how he buys his way onto Fox News interviews. In those appearances, he is careful to avoid the Trump issue. Instead, he repeats Trump issues and makes an entertaining complaint against the system. Again, he has no chance, but he seems to get the problem the GOP field is facing.
This is the problem DeSantis faces. He is the only plausible alternative to Trump, but if he attacks Trump, he will sound like the establishment sissies and media rage heads who have been attacking Trump for close to a decade. On the other hand, his path to victory is to argue that he has a better chance of winning the general election than Trump and that is going to require a direct comparison between himself as a candidate and Trump as the well-known public figure.
One clue as to how Team DeSantis is going to try and square that circle is by staking out positions to the right of Trump on things like immigration. He just signed a bill enforcing the states labor laws with regards to migrant workers. The new law requires employers to use E-Verify when hiring. This is something that sets DeSantis apart from the party establishment, but it also puts him to the right of Trump, who keeps doing the legal versus illegal immigration thing.
This is just one issue. DeSantis has already made himself a champion of children with his tough stance on the groomer issue. He has come under fire from the degenerate community over this stuff, with the libertarians leading the charge against his policies toward the Disney corporation. As a political matter, if you have the rainbow warriors and the libertarians attacking you, then you will get a fair hearing from the sorts of people who vote in Republican primaries.
This may be why the regime is worried about DeSantis. His only path to victory is to move the Overton window away from where the regime wants it. Inevitably, Trump will seek to outflank DeSantis on these issues. Imagine Trump taking on the trannies and you can see why Washington is worried. Throw in the opportunistic and entertaining Ramaswamy and the gap between the Cloud People and the Dirt People could become an impossible to ignore chasm by 2024.
That may be the ironic twist to the effort to stop Trump. Ron DeSantis is supposed to be Trumpism without Trump, but in the end, he may be a radicalizing agent that shifts the party base further toward a revolt against the regime. In order to avoid being called Neocon Ron, DeSantis will have to be Radical Ron and in so doing he will help legitimize a radical rejection of regime morality. Opposing the regime moves from instinctive reaction to a radical imperative.
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