Trump Is The Current GOP Leader, Full Stop

Trump supporters at CPAC 2023 with signs
Trump supporters at CPAC 2023

The Conservative Political Action Committee happened last week. It was the usual parade of nonsense, that showed the trajectory of Republican thought over the last 40 years has arrived at a very dark and dangerous place.

Some of us could see this happening, some of us could not, or would not. I empathize with many who would not because beloved family members were Reagan supporters (like in parts of my own family). But at the same time, this kind of GOP ugliness was always there in some form – see, for example, how the Reagan administration treated the AIDS crisis as a joke, even when it was clear it was spreading like wildfire throughout the LGBTQ community. This dark side of the right was always there, and when the GOP stopped caring about winning elections, this dark side took over.

I think there is a little bit of that denial left regarding how people think of Certified Worst Person Ever, Donald Trump. I was with friends recently, Democratic friends, and the general consensus was Trump was finished, and while he was still doing rallies, there was no way he was going to win the nomination.

Where have we heard that before?

Trump can’t possibly win the nomination, America would never elect someone like Trump, now that he won Trump is going to have to change to fit the office, Trump is not going to be as bad as those silly unreasonable lefties claim, Trump will go silently when he loses, his supporters are unfairly slandered as violent, and so on.

None of that proved to be true, and I think some of that was wishful thinking. Everyone who is not a crazy MAGA person has been sick of the guy for a long time and would love it if he disappeared one day. But there are plenty of indications that Trump himself will be a factor in the 2024 election whether we like it or not.

For example, take the early polls. Trump has a fairly large lead. I wrote this piece on polling, and please keep a few things in mind here. First off, a poll is not a crystal ball, it is a window, a snapshot of the current moment. Single polls are inaccurate but polling averages are much better. And finally, national polls tend to be more accurate than state polls (even in 2020, the national polls were 2.7% off).

This is not a panic post. Far from it. I think that Trump holding an early lead is much worse news for Republicans.

For starters, Trump’s appearance at CPAC was both standard-grade Trump and a warning sign for his supporters. His speech was full of total bullshit, and stuff like this was, as they say, rich:

He seemed to ramble more than even Trump, so perhaps the big guy’s brain ain’t what it used to be. But his appearance stood out because it was pretty much the only moment of “real excitement” at a low-attended, low-energy event.

That other awful right-wing group, Club for Growth, held their big event at the same time down in Florida. Lead Contender for Worst Person in the World Ron DeSantis held a fundraiser, also in Florida. Turning Point USA and Fox “News” were also no-shows.

Curiously enough, the Trump family members made little impact. Donnie Jr.’s speech featured his usual Cocaine-Addled Bully stuff, but was also low energy. Junior’s fiance, the Crazed Kimberly Guilfoyle, spoke to a half-empty auditorium.

This is a clear indication that the Trump mojo stops with the Donald, and while the GOP is careful not to antagonize Trump, they are also clearly yearning to move from Trump. To be clear, this is not good news for America. What they are moving onto, DeSantis, is more or less the same Cruelty is the Point brand of Republican politics. Florida has been nothing short of a right-wing nightmare, with a laser focus on things like banning books and attacking trans people.

So this is really just a fight about who will lead a very Trump-y party, OG Trump or the new improved Trump. While CPAC was low energy outside of Trump, the Donald still got them fired up during his speech. Trump still commands a significant portion of the party.

Another big factor is the GOP, so far, has shown little indication that they have learned that having a lot of candidates is what helped to propel Trump to the nomination in 2016 in the first place. But the Republicans are in a little bit of “between a rock and a hard place” here. If the party brass does decide to rally around DeSantis and get the others to drop out, that will only embolden Trump. Trump peppered his speech at CPAC with attacks on “mainstream” Republicans.

Shots fired.

Trump mixed in a little racism with his attacks on fellow Republicans, of course. This is a thinly veiled reference to Mitch McConnell’s Asian wife.

So, what if indeed DeSantis or another Republican defeat Trump in the primary? If Trump loses, it is not hard to see him declare it fake news and a rigged election, something we have seen happen with Republican losers in THEIR PRIMARIES. It is not hard at all to envision Trump going third-party, or actively campaigning to tell his supporters to boycott the election.

This no doubt keeps Republican strategists up at night. As long as he is alive, Trump stays in the picture.

The last word goes to Keane.

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