Why the GOP needs someone — anyone — to challenge Trump in 2020

But just because Trump seems dominant today doesn’t mean that anti-Trump principles — family values, for instance, or suspicion toward Russia, or deficit reduction, or simple decorum — can’t find an audience in a 2020 primary.

.. Most Republicans like the state of Trump’s GOP just fine; there is no groundswell for a #NeverTrump-er to rescue the party. In the most recent CNN/SSRS poll, the president’s approval rating among Republicans was 86 percent.

.. The GOP may or may not face danger at the ballot box in 2018 and 2020, but it is doomed in the long run if no Republican stands for the principles that the party has for so long said it defends: governmental restraint and individual liberty.

.. since 1968, serious primary challengers to incumbent presidents have been one of the more effective vehicles to push a party to change its ideas, rethink its core constituencies and remake its platform.

.. Eugene McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, Edward Kennedy and Pat Buchanan helped sink the incumbent’s reelection chances and alter their parties’ direction over the long term.

.. Reagan’s spirited 1976 challenge to President Gerald Ford pivoted the GOP toward the former California governor’s anti-big-government, hawkish views.

.. Kennedy ran on the idea that Carter had abandoned Democratic principles of using government to lessen income inequality and fight for the underdog. “It’s time to have a real Democrat in the White House again,” he declared in 1979.

.. By defeating Carter in New York and Connecticut, Kennedy shifted the party template to one that fit with Northeastern liberalism and further weakened the Democrats in the South.

.. In the long run, Kennedy’s campaign cemented Democrats as the party of traditionally disenfranchised minorities, helped give it an electoral advantage among women and sought (with mixed success) to put economic inequality at the center of its platform.

.. Buchanan used his 1992 race against President George H.W. Bush to keep an alternate tradition alive within the GOP. Buchanan’s bid, in retrospect, was a marker on the road to Trumpism.

.. should someone like Kasich mount a third-party bid, he could split the anti-Trump general-election vote and hand Trump another term.

What Happens to Bannonism After Bannon?

The President single-handedly turned the book from a racy tell-all that would have enthused the Beltway and media crowds into a must-have consumer product—the literary equivalent of a new iPhone

.. Not only did Trump put out a lengthy statement on Thursday bashing Steve Bannon, his former senior adviser, for coöperating with Wolff on his “phoney” book, his lawyers sent a letter to the publisher, Henry Holt, demanding that it halt publication. From that moment on, every self-respecting Trump hater in the country simply had to buy a copy.

.. a separate denunciation of Bannon from his longtime financial sponsor, the hedge-fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, who is a part-owner of Breitbart, the scrappy Web site that Bannon turned into a platform for Trump and the alt-right. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements,” Mercer said

.. “Bannon is resisting. He’s quite like Trump in this respect: he views any apology or admission of error as a sign of weakness.”

.. Trump thought the Mercers were as odd as everybody else thought. He didn’t like Bob Mercer looking at him and not saying a word; he didn’t like being in the same room as Mercer or his daughter. These were super-strange bedfellows—‘wackos’ in his description.”

.. not the demise of his ambitions to transform the G.O.P. into a nationalist/protectionist party modelled on the European right but the opening of a new front. Freed from the constraints of being inside the Administration, Bannon would be able to recruit candidates, raise money, and take down members of the Republican establishment.

.. Trump, in Bannon’s view, was a chapter, or even a detour, in the Trump revolution, which had always been about weaknesses in the two major parties

.. Trump was just the beginning.”

Trump Breaks With Bannon, Saying He Has ‘Lost His Mind’

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Mr. Trump berated Mr. Bannon for the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama and said the former adviser did not represent his base but was “only in it for himself.” Rather than supporting the president’s agenda to “make America great again,” Mr. Bannon was “simply seeking to burn it all down,” Mr. Trump said.

.. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” he added. “It is the only thing he does well.

.. Mr. Bannon had said he planned to back a slew of candidates in Republican primaries this year to take down establishment incumbents he saw as insufficiently conservative, even if it clashed with Mr. Trump’s endorsements.

That did not seem to bother Mr. Trump and indeed struck many as a way for the president to keep Mr. Bannon as an outside hammer pressuring Republican lawmakers to stay in line.

.. But accusing the president’s eldest son of treason crossed the line, even for an inner circle of aides who regularly fought and privately disparaged each other.

.. The book presents Mr. Trump as an ill-informed and thoroughly unserious candidate and president, engaged mainly in satisfying his own ego. It reports that early in the campaign, one aide, Sam Nunberg, was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” it quoted Mr. Nunberg as saying, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

.. According to the book, neither Mr. Trump nor his wife, Melania Trump, nor many of his aides actually expected to win the election in November 2016 and indeed did not really want to.

.. It describes a distraught Mrs. Trump as being in tears on election night, not out of joy, and said the new president and first lady were fighting on Inauguration Day.

 Comments:

Sarah Sandberg

Toronto 5 hours ago

It seems like the wheels are falling of the bus that is the Trump presidency. It is also interesting to note that anyone who leaves his administration and causes Trump to get negative coverage, was only a minor player.

Bannon – Minor player with a role that required the highest level of security clearance
Papadopoulous – Minor unpaid player who somehow managed to get photographed in a meeting with Trump
Flynn – Minor player with the administration a short time
Manafort – Minor Manager of his whole campaign.

I wonder who the major players are? Will Kushner be a minor player if/when he leaves?

NM

Poetic justice for both Trump and Bannon.
Trump wanted the counsel and company of an anarchist – well, no surprise, he got endless chaos.
Bannon wanted a loose cannon in our highest office – well, now it was turned on him.

Loren C

San Francisco 5 hours ago

Notice how Trump never refutes anything Bannon says; instead he just ridicules and attempts to minimize the man he previously clearly embraced as his closest advisor. Notice also that all of Trump’s other closest advisors and spokespersons, except his family members, are now gone and have been excommunicated (Manafort, Flynn, Priebus), and in every case Trump has tried, unsuccessfully, to distance himself from them as if they never had anything to do with his campaign. See a pattern?

 

Jeff Flake’s Defiant Surrender

Republican politicians throughout the age of Trump, and again and again they have chosen to die in the dark.

This was true of Trump’s strongest primary-season rivals, who fought him directly and concertedly during exactly one of the umpteen debates and then, finding open war hard going, chose to lose and bow out as though Trump were a normal rival rather than the fundamentally unfit figure they had described just a few short weeks before.

It was true of the party functionaries, the hapless Reince Priebus above all, who denied the residual Republican forces resisting Trump the chance to fight him one last time in the light of the convention floor.

..  It was true of Paul Ryan; it was true even of John McCain.

.. It was not true of everyone. Mitt Romney and John Kasich declined to fall on the sword of party unity; so did George W. Bush and his father; so did some governors and a few junior senators, Mike Lee and Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake.
.. while they refused to make the quietus, to strangle their own convictions in Trump’s ample shadow, they declined many chances to keep up the fight openly as well.
.. The nomination of a figure like Trump, a clear threat to both the professed beliefs of his party’s leaders and to basic competence in presidential government, is the sort of shattering event that in the past would have prompted a real schism or independent candidacy.
.. But Romney couldn’t talk Kasich into being that independent candidate, all the other possibilities demurred
.. Now, almost a year into the Trump presidency, a similar dynamic is playing out. There is a small but significant Republican opposition to Trump, but its leading figures still don’t want to go to war with him directly, preferring philosophical attacks and tactical withdrawal to confrontation and probable defeat.
.. To the extent that there’s a plausible theory behind all of these halfhearted efforts, it’s that resisting Trump too vigorously only strengthens his hold on the party’s base, by vindicating his claim to have all the establishment arrayed against him.
.. In the end, if you want Republican voters to reject Trumpism, you need to give them clear electoral opportunities to do so — even if you expect defeat
.. an anti-Trump movement that gives high-minded speeches but never mounts candidates confirms Trump’s claim to face establishment opposition while also confirming his judgment of the establishment’s guts and stamina — proving that they’re all low-energy, all “liddle” men, all unwilling to fight him man to man.
.. If Corker really means what he keeps saying about the danger posed by Trump’s effective incapacity, he should call openly for impeachment or for 25th Amendment proceedings
.. If Flake really means what he said in his impassioned speech, and he doesn’t want to waste time and energy on a foredoomed Senate primary campaign, then he should choose a different hopeless-seeming cause and primary Trump in 2020. George W. Bush should endorse him. So should McCain, and Corker, and Romney, and Kasich, and Sasse, and the rest of the anti-Trump list.
.. They should expect to lose, and badly, but they should make Trump actually defeat them, instead of just clearing the field for his second nomination.
.. And not only for the sake of their honor. The president’s G.O.P. critics should engage in electoral battle because the act of campaigning, the work of actually trying to persuade voters, is the only way anti-Trump Republicans will come to grips with the legitimate reasons that their ideas had become so unpopular that voters opted for demagoguery instead.
.. A speechifying anti-Trumpism, distant from the fray, will always be self-regarding and self-deceiving — unwilling to see how the Iraq War discredited both the Bushist and McCainian styles of right-wing internationalism, incapable of addressing the economic disappointments that turned voters against Flake’s Goldwaterite libertarianism and Romney’s “trust me, I’m a businessman” promises.
.. Only in actual political competition can the Republican elite reckon with why it lost its party, and how it might win again
.. I think the G.O.P. is more likely to be renewed by someone who currently supports Trump or someone not yet active in politics than it is by the men resisting the president today.