Don’t do it, Donald. Don’t go low to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination – it will only hurt you in the end.
Such has been the advice of many regular politics observers, myself included. There’s been gobs of commentary on Donald Trump and his various political metamorphoses over the years, the preponderance of the comments addressing Trump’s multitude of issue switches and remarkable philosophical evolutions to arrive at where he is today.
Practically everyone knows that Trump, despite his more recent leanings, was once considered a liberal – or at the least, a political chameleon who valued relationships with power brokers over static principles you’d see etched on the wall of a marble monument somewhere. I’m guessing some researcher’s scoured Trump’s entire pre-presidency public utterance portfolio and found instances of him supporting this or that cause at some moment in his life.
Except maybe the Iraq War. But didn’t Trump say something nice about that in the beginning, too?
Trump’s willingness – and ability – to assess the mood of the country is perhaps his strongest asset, but it also lends an aura of shallowness to his political beliefs. For example, Trump was once thought to be good friends with the Clintons – and there’s that infamous photo of Bill & Hill beaming alongside Trump and Melania at the couple’s wedding reception on January 22, 2005 at their Mar-a-Lago estate.
Of course, at the time, Trump’s chumminess with the ethically challenged couple was probably attributable to his business enterprise being headquartered in New York City while her crooked-ness was one of the state’s two senators, but by all appearances, it didn’t trouble the real estate developer/reality TV star to associate with the upper echelon of the pay-for-play Democrat party.
Congenial relations with Democrats aren’t a problem for Trump these days. If the hags on “The View” or the nighttime lineups of liberal cable TV shows are any indication, Democrats hate Trump with the heat of a million suns in contemporary times. And the feelings are mutual. Trump wouldn’t be caught unconscious anywhere around a Biden administration official these days, and his contempt goes double for Attorney General Merrick Garland.
But what about Republicans? And, more specifically, how will Trump handle his (likely) upcoming battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 GOP primary race? There are ominous signs that the former president is already gathering tidbits of dirt to drag the 44-year-old Sunshine State governor down into the bog. And, since they both reside in Florida, who knows how many alligators lurk on the muddy bottom.
It could get very ugly, and quickly. In an article titled “Trump building extensive opposition file on Florida governor ahead of 2024”, Rachel Schilke reported at the Washington Examiner last week:
“Since launching his campaign in November shortly after the midterm elections, Trump has zeroed in on DeSantis as his primary challenger. With DeSantis's overwhelming reelection victory, he was already viewed as Trump's biggest threat and a rising star within the Republican Party.
“DeSantis has not announced his candidacy for president, but that is not stopping Trump's team and his allied PAC from conducting extensive research into DeSantis's record to build a strong opposition case in the event that the two go head-to-head. A Trump-allied group has drilled into the governor's work as assistant U.S. attorney before running for Congress. The group accused DeSantis of being an ‘extremely lenient prosecutor’ in cases involving child pornography, among other things, according to Politico…
“Trump's team is in overdrive, working to prevent deep-pocket donors and established GOP lawmakers hoping to move away from Trump in 2024 from joining together to support DeSantis. He has criticized DeSantis's voting record in Congress, particularly in policy areas such as military involvement overseas and entitlement cuts.”
Sure, sure, this is all well and good. No one ever said running for office guarantees a smooth ride for anyone launching a campaign, and a seasoned veteran like Ron DeSantis certainly banks on a furious wave of pin moves stemming from Trump in any scenario. The mystery is, who will referee the wrestling match?
The old saying goes “All is fair in love and war”, but in today’s ultra-divided political environment, everything seems fair in this realm as well. Donald Trump has endured more mud – of every variety – slung at him from every direction than anyone else in contemporary American history. He’s been accused of stealing money, embezzling, paying for prostitutes, cheating on his wives, dishing out favors to his children, gaming the system, using the presidency for personal gain – and various crimes, in addition.
Want something to do? Look for work as one of Trump’s lawyers. They must be on call twenty-four/seven/365. I’m surprised Trump’s legal reps don’t have an 800 number and a fully staffed switchboard at the ready to receive the latest liberal complaint.
But just because Trump’s been the target – and a victim – of the horrible onslaught of liberal angst doesn’t mean he should turn around and use the left’s tactics against his own people. It’s okay to take facts about a person’s past and arrange them in such a way to make an argument against a competitor. It’s quite another to make farfetched assumptions and try to break the skin.
Seriously? Suggesting that DeSantis somehow tolerates child pornography because someone said he pursued light sentences when working as a U.S. Attorney? Schilke’s piece also contains a quote from DeSantis’s former boss affirming that the Floridian pursued the strongest sentences he could – and that Ron wasn’t the least bit lenient when he served as a government attorney.
Such campaign hyperbole only makes Trump look clownish. People who follow politics – as many devoted Republicans regularly do – recognize that DeSantis is probably the most pro-child, pro parental rights governor in the country today. DeSantis has personally overseen efforts to keep porn and sleaze out of public schools, battled the LGBTQIA+++ lobby – and won – and also fought to keep China’s mitts off of social media.
Ripping DeSantis is a dead-end avenue for Trump, and the sooner he realizes it, the better it will be for him.
The same goes for Trump’s attacks on DeSantis as being beholden to the GOP establishment. When in the House of Representatives, Ron was a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus -- and the lower chamber group is not exactly renowned for caving to the big government interests of the swamp.
From the liberal rag The Atlantic: “First elected to Congress in 2012, DeSantis co-founded the House Freedom Caucus, which captured the insurrectionary mood of small-government conservatives in the Barack Obama years. Always quick to denounce out-of-control federal spending, he voted to shut down the federal government rather than acquiesce to omnibus spending bills brokered by the House GOP leadership on more than one occasion.”
Doesn’t sound much like a capitulator, does it? And it’s a well-known fact that DeSantis has been a conservative crusader in the struggle against illegal immigration, including taking the ballsy opportunity to send planeloads of illegal aliens to “woke” haven Martha’s Vineyard. DeSantis is no Paul Ryan or Jeb Bush lightweight.
Here again, Trump risks being caught in twisted distortions if he goes too far to tie DeSantis to the establishment. The facts don’t back up the former president’s assertion. And besides, Trump looks petty and foolish bashing on America’s shiniest example of a governor doing the right things and not being hesitant to publicly bring light to the effort.
Trump probably reasons such low-brow smear tactics work because they were effective against Ted Cruz in 2016. But remember, at the time, Cruz was a little-known senator with a gift for ideas and articulation. Cruz didn’t have nearly as deep of a record as Ron DeSantis does. Conservatives know DeSantis, and they’re much more inclined to recognize a naked Trump hit job when they see one.
It’s conceivable Trump will do lasting damage to his own campaign if he tries turning DeSantis into the scourge of the conservative masses. Much will depend on DeSantis when he enters the race, but for now, Ron’s best bet is to lay low while staying above the fray. What’s he got to lose if Trump makes a jerk of himself?
One of my favorite Bible verses is (Mark 8:36), “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Or, in the context of Trump, what good is it to slay your party opponents’ reputations just to gain the Republican presidential nomination? Some of these political warriors will be vitally important to the success of his second administration, should it come to pass, and depicting them as de facto enemies only makes the mission of Making America Great Again that much more arduous.
Donald Trump must do more than win the Republican nomination to further his quest to return this country to its proper path. He must gather his best foot soldiers to help wage the war. Solid conservatives like Ron DeSantis will be part of the future – Trump does himself no favors by debasing his competition now. This isn’t 2016, and Trump had best remember it.
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