Smooth Sailing for Trump, Despite Efforts to Rock the Boat
Former Michigan GOP Governor is the latest establishment Republican to Dump Trump, but does it matter?
Sunday Evening Editorial: By Joe Malburg
When Donald Trump took the makeshift stage assembled on the South Lawn of the White House, one thing was very clear. The America Trump had inherited after his win in 2016, the one in need of being made great again, was not the America of 2020, the one in need of being kept great. With a backdrop of American flags and a crowd of unmasked, non-socially distanced supporters looking on, the President spent one hour presenting a vision of America that is simultaneously a testament to the achievements of his first term and a harbinger of the terrors to come if he is not elected to a second term. Whether you see the swamp as having been drained, in the process of being drained or more crowded and dank than ever, you must admit that things have changed. And to hear Donald Trump tell it, that change was not only needed, but exactly what he promised and delivered. For a myriad of reasons this election cycle has been unorthodox and the Democratic and Republican conventions, regardless of content, were bound to be unconventional. And while the remote speeches, small or non-existent crowds and largely online, streaming coverage was a little bit jarring, it was the guest list at the RNC that was the furthers departure from the norms we’ve come accustomed to in American Politics. Eight people, with the last name Trump or in a relationship with someone with that last name took the stage, but not a single living Republican President or party nominee for the office joined them. George W. Bush and Mitt Romney sat it out, as did Bob Dole and his family, the family of the late John McCain and the remaining family of 43rd president Bush and his father, 41st president George H. W. Bush. In fact, nearly all of the pre-Trump Republican establishment have either been silent on the subject or just have come out against the current commander and chief. Additionally, the Lincoln Project, a group of concerned current and former Republicans, led by prominent conservatives George Conway, Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson among others, has dedicated itself to preventing the reelection of Trump who they view as “a threat to the Constitution and the America we know and love.” And right here in Michigan, former governor Rick Snyder, never a vocal Trump supporter has now turned completely against him and endorsed Democratic candidate Joe Biden for President. And that’s just the beginning, the list of those who were once central to the Republican ethos in this country are now outsiders struggling to hold onto the party Trump has ripped away from them. They want him out and they aren’t sitting by quietly this time around. But does it matter? From the moment Donald Trump came down that escalator, he’s not been worried about making friends, especially not with the leaders of the Republican party which he improbably upended by securing the 2016 nomination for President despite a bevy of experts across all of the political spectrum labeling his pursuit of the Presidency something between a publicity stunt and a side show. Trump’s supporters are not the compassionate conservatives that George W. Bush identified or the policy driven ideologues that Romney tried to build a fiscally conservative foundation from. Instead, Trump’s base has long considered those types to be RINOs, Republicans In Name Only. The Trump supporters are not interested in or concerned about policy, that is very clear from the Trump campaigns decision to forego a new platform in 2020 and rather just running back the 2016 greatest hits with the caveat that their support for President Trump is strong and unwavering. Instead, Trump’s supporters are more concerned with having someone who will represent them in the culture war and give them a voice to oppose what they see as the terrifying rise of the radical left. A group of Marxist/Socialist/Communist big government boogeymen who will take America down a slippery slope to inevitable and assured destruction.
Unlike milk-toast statesmen Mitt Romney, fill-in-the-blank Bush, John McCain, Rick Snyder and the rest of the RINO’s, Donald John Trump is seen by the new Republican base as a fighter. A man who tolerates nothing but what he sees as “America First” policy and demands only what he perceives as absolute fealty to him. One of his most popular, though unofficial slogans for 2020 is “No More Bullshit”. A phrase which can be seen strewn across Trump signs nationwide. This dystopian dysphemism, which would have seemed like something straight out of an Saturday Night Live parody just five years ago, now fits the fed-up followers attitudes like a glove. They embrace it as an expression of their anger and frustration, decades of disillusionment and a robust rallying cry against the ominous specter of the looming leftist invasion. Trump is strong, independent-thinking, self-made and business minded, and his critics who scoff at that description, they are simply jealous, dishonest or outright enemies of America. Part of an unseen, but undeniable threat to the American people masquerading as public servants, institutional curators and so-called experts. In a word (or two), the Deep State.
Trump’s embracing of the Deep State narrative, long a touchstone of the far-right which has bled into the mainstream slowly but steadily during the internet and social media era, has ingratiated him with a whole new segment of citizens. Political pundits call them low-information or unreliable/periodic voters. And while certainly that description is fitting for some, to hear them tell it, these people were just waiting for someone to come along who was worth their vote. In the twist of fate that literally no one in the political establishment saw coming, that someone was the septuagenarian real estate mogul turned reality TV star, Donald Trump. And while it was more likely his brash showmanship, willful defiance and anything but usual approach to politics that first attracted most of his voters and supporters, he has elected to double down on the legitimization of this long ridiculed rhetoric which has endeared him to the disenfranchised, disillusioned and yes, even deplorable sections of society which he needed to make-up for the mainstream defections which he willfully and intentionally expedited.
Rather it’s Antifa, Q-Anon’s deep state, Marxism, Globalists, 5G, MS-13, Illegal Immigration, Black Lives Matter or a whole host of other “others”, Trump has cast them as enemies of the “real America” and tapped into an authentic and visceral fear among his supporters which Republicans and Democrats alike have been trying to dampen or dismiss for decades. George Bush went to a mosque after 9/11 and called Islam a religion of peace. John McCain issued a stern reprisal of a perspective voter who attempted to cast his 2008 opponent for President, Barack Obama as a dangerous Muslim at a candidate town hall. McCain called Obama a “fine man, with whom I have strong disagreements'', and it earned him bi-partisan praise, but ultimately he was blown out by Obama in November. Trump refused to play nice, refused to apologize and refused to let logic, reality or facts stop him from speculating. Was Obama a secret Muslim born in Kenya? “I’d sure like to know and so would the American People”, Trump mused in 2012. At the time he was just a reality TV star saying something sensational to get attention, but below the surface, there was simmering, an appetite for that sort of attack. Rather Trump stumbled into it on accident or it was part of his plan all along, it unlocked a door that no one thought was ever going to be opened.
Trump has rushed headlong through that opening, and for every traditional Republican he’s alienated he seems to have pulled in at least one political outsider in search of a home. The elephant in the room for both parties has long been the fact that group of Americans who didn’t vote for president were larger than any group that ever voted for a single Republican or Democratic candidate. Whether by design or by dumb luck, Trump has, unlike any candidate in our lifetimes, tapped into that silent plurality. So it’s hard to imagine this latest last stand from the dying Republican orthodoxy being the straw that breaks the camel's back, but rather, it feels more likely just the latest in a series of futile forays. Rick Snyder was elected on a platform of running the State of Michigan like a business, which on the surface, is a lot like what Trump supporters initially hypothesized the current POTUS would do. But while Trump still sees himself as a shrewd negotiator and all-time great deal-maker, he has no time for budgets, balance sheets or the day-to-day minutiae that anyone who runs a business will tell you makes up the majority of their day. Instead Trump is more of a marketer, a big picture blowhard who could sell a mud pie to a lady in white gloves, the best mud pie many people would say. So it’s hard to see this latest attack on Trump as having much staying power. Not only will it be rejected by the lions-share of his base, I don’t see it resonating with many on the left either. John Kasich, speaking at the DNC and standing at a literal and metaphorical crossroads isn’t bringing any on the fence voters on board anymore than it’s compelling Trump supporters, who chose the Donald over the former Ohio Governor four to one in 2016, to change course. The Democrats, like the Trump Republicans have said, “the heck with bringing in new voters, let’s make sure our base doesn’t feel guilty about voting for the candidate we are stuck with.” The mainstream Democrats are already all-in against the Trump message just as much as their opposition is on-board with it. Their minds are made up that he has to go, and no Republican, even the moderate Kasich with his alleged crossover appeal is a voice they trust or want to turn to. Instead, if the Democrats are going to defeat The Donald in November, they will need to find their own new voters. The way Trump did in 2016 and the way Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012.
For the left, that means making a Trump-like calculation of ignoring the middle and moving towards the edges, in this case, the progressive left. The same group that the GOP demonizes as radical and ready to take over America with Venezuelan-style Marxist-Socialism, (two forms of ideology absent from the actual Venezuela), is the group that can deliver Biden a landslide victory in 2020. Like the Trump supporters prior to 2016, this faction of the left sees the party mainstream as more of a hindrance than a help to making America “Great”. While the far-right decries the Biden/Harris ticket as a Trojan Horse for the radical left, the people who actually would be America’s radical left see the Biden/Harris ticket as a Neoliberal nightmare more in-line with a traditional Republican ticket. This chasm shows as clearly as any example, the binary nature of and mutual myopia on both sides of today’s American political landscape. Joe Biden is simultaneously too far-left for moderate Republicans and too far right for Progressives. It’s a precarious position for Biden and the Democrats and one not too far removed from where they found themselves in 2016. While Trump might force some on his side of the aisle to say enough is enough, he also brings in voters whose ship has finally come in. Biden, conversely, had seen enthusiasm for voting for him wane as enthusiasm to vote against Trump grows. If Trump wins, it will be because he is 100% Trump and the people who want to vote for him don’t have to wonder what they are getting. If Biden wins it will because he is 100% not Trump and enough people will say it’s more important to stop him than get what they actually want.
We’ve seen this play out before and not just in 2016. To a lesser extent, every election since 1976 has been about a choice for Americans between the same old, same old and something new and to some degree, exciting and radical. Prior to Trump, the last time we saw a party usurped by an outsider without party approval was in 1972 when Democrat George McGovern upset Hubert Humprey, Ed Muskie and the Democratic Party machine in the primary only to have them turn on him and help Republican Richard Nixon win a landslide reelection. Since then, the more radical choice has won nearly every time. Upstart Jimmy Carter out of nowhere over incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976 on the heels of an all-time great convention and primary campaign. Ronald Reagan, the actor and political outsider over Democratic main-streamers Carter and Walter Mondale. Bill Clinton, the first southern governor to win the presidency shocking incumbent George H.W. Bush (whose 1988 victory of Michael Dukakis is the lone exception to this theory) in 1992. Clinton again over former Ford VP Bob Dole in 1996. George W. Bush, upending moderate Democrat centrists Al Gore and John Kerry despite significant traditional advantages for the Democrats and of course upstart Barack Obama defeating an American Hero in John McCain and American political royalty in Mitt Romney all while being cast as a far-left threat by the Republican mainstream. America has been begging for change for more than four decades. The Republicans, begrudgingly gave it to them with Trump in 2016 and now, despite the base of both parties trying to call for a return to normal at every turn, America will again have the power to make the call in November. And America, with all due respect to Rick Snyder, will make up its own mind.