Can the GOP survive Trump’s never-ending obsession with himself?
Dear Reader (including whoever put the lime in the coconut and shook it all up),
As Jerome Powell whispered, don’t worry, baby, this will be transitory.
What I mean is that this Friday “news”letter marks the end of third party week. And I’m really not going to jump back into the weeds on that subject anyway. (By the way, I’ve opened up the Wednesday G-File to the masses in case you want to get in on the action.)
I don’t really mind people thinking I’m wrong about the tactical and strategic stuff. One of the ways you figure out what’s right is by kicking the tires on what’s wrong. I don’t mind people thinking I’m wrong about the philosophical stuff, either. I’m just more willing to stand my ground on principles than I am on prudential questions like, “Will it work?” If it wouldn’t work, why would I want to do it in the first place?
Think of it this way: Say my kid is suddenly really ill and I think it’s appendicitis. I say to the E.R. doctor, “You gotta operate right now!” If the doctor responds, “Um, it’s food poisoning. You don’t cut people open for that,” I’m not going to get all huffy and insist he bust out the scalpel, because doctors know more about the icky stuff inside of people than I do. But if the doctor says, “Let her suffer. Suffering is good for the soul. Besides, it’s my lunch break.” Well—as I’d probably have to explain to the cops and maybe the jury—I’m going to have a more forceful response.
In other words, if you disagree with me about my proposed solution to the problem, that’s cool; let’s talk it through. But if you disagree with me on whether or not there is a problem in the first place, we’re gonna have a very different conversation.
So here’s the funny thing: Nobody wants to have that conversation (although I’m sure some MAGA types are going full Gorka on me—never go full Gorka). But among people worth listening to, there’s a lot of agreement on the diagnosis and a lot of disagreement on the treatment. I particularly like the rich cocktail of stoicism, cynicism, and hopefulness in Erick Erickson’s take. It’s like getting a motivational greeting card from Werner Herzog. He writes:
It’s all gross and unseemly, but I think what is happening now is a passing fad. A large group of people came into politics inspired by Trump. They don’t really know what they’re doing in politics or how it all works. Now the billionaires who want in on the action are throwing money around and they’re getting played by the grifters and bled dry. The island of misfit toys is trying to lead them all. The professional establishment operators are experts at playing all sides and the odds are in their favor. They’re not conservatives. But they aren’t really crazy either.
But note that the Calvin Coolidge-esque resignation about the problem isn’t a denial of the problem’s existence. Remember one of my favorite quotes from Coolidge: “If you see 10 troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” Erick’s position seems to be that the problem I identify is likely to be one of the nine that goes into a ditch on its own.
I sincerely hope he’s right. But I still disagree with Eric on a few things. For instance, I’m still not fully convinced my idea wouldn’t work. I worry more about the role of small donors than I do about the really big ones. J.D. Vance may be attached to Peter Thiel like a sucker fish, but unless the fat cats are laundering money through a bunch of dummy accounts, buffoons like Marjorie Taylor Greene and political appetites in a skin suit (looking at you, Josh Hawley) are raising a ton of money through small donations.
Donald Trump, third party of one.
But you know what does give me hope? Donald Trump. The other day, he issued a fantastic statement:
If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ‘22 or ‘24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.
I love this statement so much it makes me want to take off my wedding ring, suck in my stomach, and ask it to go to Bermuda with me.
All week I’ve been hearing from people—smart people, dumb people, sincere people, performative Twitter jackass people—that it’s bad, wrong, traitorous, stupid, misguided, or insane for me to actively try to hurt the GOP because of my personal obsessions. “Don’t you understand,” friends and foes alike ask, “that you’ll single-handedly give total power to the Democrats and they’ll print a whole roll of trillion-dollar coins, invoke prima nocta in red states, mandate that face masks be surgically sewn into our faces (causing the starvation of millions), make skim almond milk the only legal form of dairy, and give nuclear weapons to the Taliban? Is that what you want you RINO cuck TDS-besotted jackass? Is it?”
Okay, I’m paraphrasing and exaggerating just a bit for effect, but you get the point. In all of this, I’m the one who needs to compromise with the “freedom flu” crowd for the greater good; I’m the one who needs to stop relitigating the past; I’m the one putting my concerns ahead of the real issues that affect real Americans; I’m the one who needs to be a sober-eyed grown-up about politics.
And then in comes Trump, making waves like a stumbling drunk who didn’t see the hot tub until too late, literally saying that Democrats should win every election uncontested unless everyone “solves” the object of his batshit bullshittery. The single most important thing for Republicans to address isn’t critical race theory, vaccine mandates, the border, the supply chain cock-up, inflation, or anything having to do with foreign policy. It’s their commitment to a claim that was shot down by every court that looked at it, not to mention Trump’s own attorney general(s).
At least my solutions are aimed at the future and grounded in real policy stuff. I’m trying to figure out how to make the GOP better, more successful, and conservative in the long run. Meanwhile, Trump’s stolen election fantasy is simply and entirely about his own selfish id, his unrestrained narcissism, and his complete lack of concern with anything approaching real issues. He might as well be venting about how the time travel in Back to the Future really didn’t make much sense, given how little this stolen election nonsense has to do with not only reality, but stuff that might be helpful for the GOP. In other words, my alleged “Trump obsession” isn’t the issue or even a problem. But Trump’s very real and deranged Trump obsession is.
It already cost the GOP control of the Senate by losing Georgia. Now Trump proposes losing the whole country if his ego isn’t stroked. But damn you, Goldberg, be a team player!
By the way, what in the name of Thor does Trump mean by “solve” anyway? Does it mean “make him president again before the midterms”? Does it mean a do-over of the election? Does it mean a 500-foot-tall carnivorous purple bunny that craps cold fusion reactors that smell like chocolate? Because that makes as much sense.
Look, even if a joint investigation of the Claremont Review of Books, Gateway Pundit, One America News, and the MyPillow coupon sampler could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the election was “stolen,” you know what happens next under the Constitution? Nothing. Biden would still be president. Unless of course you think that such fraud should be punished by impeachment and removal. Fair enough. Have fun getting those 67 votes in the Senate. But let’s say you do. Know what happens then? Kamala Harris becomes president. Well, she was obviously in on it, too, so she has to go. Okay, then Nancy Pelosi becomes president. Maybe you should stop there, because next in line is Pat Leahy. And after that, John frick’n Kerry. But you know who isn’t on even the extended list of those next in line to become president? Donald Trump. (It’s amazing how many people who have “constitutional conservative” in their Twitter bio don’t understand this.)
In other words, who needs a third party to punish the GOP when you have Donald Trump running around punching every team player in the groin with a spikey iron gauntlet? Charlie Cooke and my other friends at National Review who disagreed with my call for a third party are right that if the Sanity Caucus within conservatism cost the GOP control of Congress or the White House, they’d get blamed. And that would ultimately hurt the causes I care about. So just letting the cultists play out their auto-erotic masochism, as Erick suggests, makes sense.
My only objection to this scenario is that it hasn’t worked. Trump cost the GOP Georgia’s two Senate seats. Trump lost the presidency and both houses of Congress. He swapped many of the most reliable and valuable voters in the GOP coalition for the least reliable and valuable ones.
(Before a bunch of eggheads who pretend to be the authentic voice of the working class when they’re not talking about post-liberal integralism get all worked up about this claim, let me make clear I’m not talking about the value of these groups as human beings, but as voters. College educated suburbanites turned out reliably for the GOP in places where their votes were decisive. Rural voters and voters without college degrees—many of whom are already in red states—turn out less and less reliably, particularly when Trump isn’t on the ticket.)
Anyway, sorry for the long parenthetical. Where were we? Oh, right: Trump has hurt the GOP and continues to hurt the GOP in tangible ways. Yet where are the grown-ups saying, “Okay, it’s time to learn our lesson”? Normally, the faction responsible for wrecking the party hands over the car keys to the faction that gets to say, “I told you so.” Some Republicans did say it, finally, after the January 6 riot.
Such Republicans can be divided into two groups. Group A—the House and Senate members who voted for impeachment—is on defense. The House members are being purged. The senators are keeping a low profile. None of them have the whip hand in restoring the GOP to sanity.
Group B? Well, that’s pretty much everyone else. Nearly all of them have backtracked or apologized in word or deed. Lindsey Graham said he was done with Trump nine months ago. Now he wants to draft Donald Trump for president. Heck, Trump unleashed a mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence” on a vice president who was so loyal for four years he made a Stepford wife look like a randy swinger. We use the term “lynch mob” figuratively a lot in politics. But Trump sicced a literal lynch mob on Pence. And now Pence is attacking [checks notes] the media for making such a big deal about all this.
So again, I’m hoping that Erick is right and this will all fix itself in due course. I’m just skeptical, because for five years I’ve been told, “This can’t last,” “The grown-ups will fix it,” “Trump wouldn’t dare,” “The rank-and-file GOP would never tolerate that,” and “You’re making way too big a deal about this stuff,” etc.
All of those claims were wrong. And the wrongness only seems to be intensifying.
Canine update: Lots of people want to know about Pippa’s medical travails, so here’s the latest. One surgeon told us if her ankle got worse, she’d need surgery to pretty much fuse the joint. She’d still have a limp, but it wouldn’t be painful anymore. We decided it was time and brought her in for a consultation with a different surgeon (the first one is on leave). He’s skeptical that surgery is needed. This might be great news, or it might not. He thinks she might have Lyme disease or some other tick-borne illness, because she seems to have joint pain elsewhere as well. Maybe it’s all treatable with medicine and no surgery (which would be great). Or maybe it’s not (which would be terrible). We’re doing the tests, hemorrhaging the money, etc. We love the sweet, crazy girl. I promise to let you know the outcome.
Meanwhile, I’m on a plane to visit my daughter and I’m pretty giddy about it (the daughter-seeing, not the flying). The dogs are having a sleepover at “Aunt” Kirsten’s house. They love it there. Meanwhile, Gracie is staying home with a personal attendant who will also keep an eye on the house. I’ll be back on Tuesday, but the Fair Jessica will be on a business trip for a while (she’s an assassin), which means it’ll just be me and the quadrupeds for like 10 days.
And now, the weird stuff