Will the eternally discontented and out-of-power crybabies and whiners of the nebulous Donald Trump bashing NeverTrump faction hold their own convention in 2024?
Don’t laugh… it could happen. As America moves closer to the end of summer and towards the traditional post-Labor Day initiation of the fall campaign season, it’s becoming more and more evident that there will be a major division in the Republican Party this year between those who continue to like and support the former president and his MAGA movement and the group of Trump detractors who wouldn’t back the man if he were the last orange-haired politician on earth.
Both positions are eminently understandable, even if the latter bloc’s reasons vary widely and don’t make sense to the conservative grassroots, members of which make up 90+ percent of the GOP’s voter base. The old Bush establishment Republicans couldn’t get onboard with Trump even when the man brought victory after victory to the party cause during his four tumultuous years in office. They still harbor grudges over Trump’s non-veiled insults regarding the previous moderate and dignified Republican ruling regime that also counted 2008 nominee John McCain and 2012 standard-bearer Mitt Romney among its adherents.
The multitude of DC swamp establishment initiated and sustained legal investigations into Trump’s past business dealings and purported conduct on January 6, 2021 has thrown the gentile class’s worry-meter into overdrive, as Trump’s haters are convinced that there’s a smoking gun hidden under a thin pile of rubble somewhere – or perhaps in one of the boxes the FBI removed from Mar-a-Lago a few weeks back. “He will lose!” they shout, yet NeverTrumpers can’t quite cite the evidence for their claim – or who should assume his place at the top of the GOP if the New Yorker were somehow removed from the conversation.
Alternatives to Trump are emerging at the corners of the party, the problem being that the fussy and never-satisfied NeverTrump complainers don’t seem to like any of them, either. Foremost among the possible MAGA exceptions to Trump is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, but the Bush people shake their heads and make “smells bad” faces whenever the Floridian’s name is brought up as well.
That’s the dilemma when your political coalition doesn’t have a defining principle or foundation but is entirely built upon shifting personality sands with its greatest qualification being “He or she is a nice person who will unite the country and bring dignity back to the office.” Or whatever that means. The mere appearance of being like Trump is enough for the naysayers to willingly jump off a moving train, leaving observers to question whether they’ll even stay alive to count in 2024.
Will there be a NeverDeSantis movement too? Time will tell. In a piece titled “The DeSantis dilemma: GOP Trump skeptics not sure about Florida governor either”, W. James Antle III wrote at the Washington Examiner:
“DeSantis can run to the right of Trump on COVID-19, arguing that in crucial months of 2020, the former president was Dr. Anthony Fauci’s pawn. He is also 33 years younger than Trump and constitutionally eligible to run for two terms instead of one.
“But a lot of prominent Republicans who don’t like Trump are not fond of DeSantis either. ‘I think that Ron DeSantis has lined himself up almost entirely with Donald Trump, and I think that’s very dangerous,’ Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) told the New York Times. If DeSantis was nominated, she ‘would find it very difficult’ to support him. ‘A number of Republicans would be far, far better for the country and the GOP,’ Never Trump commentator David French wrote in a Twitter thread on the ‘DeSantis discourse.’ ‘So hopping on the DeSantis train simply to block Trump is *way* premature.’...
“Many Never Trump Republicans do not merely want the party to have a different leader than Trump. They want Trump to be repudiated by the GOP and replaced by someone who rejects ‘Trumpism.’ But as the Cheney primary and most other contests involving the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s second impeachment illustrated, there aren’t many Never Trump Republicans.”
No, there aren’t, which makes one wonder why any sane person bothers to listen to them when they’re commiserating with the hags at “The View” or showing up on CNN or MSNBC pretending to be real Republicans with opinions that reflect some measurable percentage of GOP voters. It’s not like they have a separate campaign apparatus or can hold the party hostage by threatening to bolt to the Democrats if their demands aren’t met.
Oh wait, they already did that in 2020 and, like a weed in a driveway crack, keep coming back despite copious amounts of political herbicide. Antle III further reported, “The only candidate who might conceivably fit the bill is former Vice President Mike Pence. Pence defied Trump on Jan. 6 and certified Biden’s election. Pence has since defended this move and has called for moving past 2020.”
What else would you expect Pence to say? Any reference to 2020 brings up something bad for the former vice president to try and sidestep. On one side you have Pence’s former boss and the majority of Republican voters who remain incensed that the one person with the legal authority to potentially stave off an unwarranted defeat didn’t do a darn thing except whatever the Democrats told him to do on that day. On the other side you have Mitch McConnell and the rest of the go-along-to-get-along wishy-washy RINO Republicans, the ones who never win anything and forestall progress when conservatives do manage to corral a majority on any particular issue.
It's almost like this group gets so close to a triumph that they can taste it but then freeze up under pressure and can’t finish the job. It’s like they can’t make the final couple free-throws to put a basketball game out of reach, or they’re a strike and an out away from a World Series victory and suddenly lose the gumption to throw the baseball around the plate. Or they’re facing a two-foot putt to win the Masters but the hole appears to shrink smaller than the circumference of the golf ball and their putter feels as though it weighs a hundred pounds.
Most conservatives still hold a soft spot in their heart for Mike Pence, yet the most effective vice president in our memories doesn’t have a natural constituency in the Republican Party anymore. The 2016 conservatives who supported Trump’s initial run or the outsider candidacies of Ted Cruz, Ben Carson or even Carli Fiorina have all come under Trump’s umbrella now.
Many of the establishmentarians who got behind Marco Rubio or Chris Christie that year also migrated to Trump when it came down to choosing a candidate who would give them most of what they wanted as opposed to helping Hillary Clinton, who would’ve been a disaster for the party and the country. Liz Cheney is one of this type of outcast, but even she voted for Trump in 2020 before going full Benedict Arnold and migrating to the Pelosi impeachment scrum.
The sizeable conglomeration of Trump voters who remain loyal to and like the former president but hope for someone younger and slightly less controversial have largely flocked to DeSantis, precisely because the Floridian reminds them a lot of Trump but in a fresher body with a more controlled demeanor and without the tendency to inflame the opposition with personal insults.
The small number of John Kasich supporters from back in 2016 have either left the party and joined senile Joe and the Democrats or disbanded into smaller percentages that don’t show up on public opinion surveys. I personally didn’t even realize that former National Review writer David French was still in the opinion business, probably still hobnobbing with Jonah Goldberg and other Bush era hangers-on at a New York City dive bar pondering how to oppose Trump and still get in the door at Republican gatherings.
The fact that DeSantis hasn’t yet won over this micro-classification of Republican followers shouldn’t be concerning to the governor, yet, after all that’s happened, if they still don’t like the most attractive alternative to Trump, then who fits the bill?
Democrats never have this problem. Sure, there’s the fully developed schism between the old guard Clinton/Obama/Biden Democrat establishment and the bomb throwing (literally) leftist Bernie Sanders contingent, but even the lefties who don’t like the current party elites will still back them against any Republican – especially Donald Trump. And Ron DeSantis.
It’s testimony to Trump’s effectiveness and dominance over the Republican Party that losers like Liz Cheney have decided popular party conservatives like DeSantis aren’t acceptable because they’re too much like the former president. That Trump-ish group also includes Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and anyone else who has expressed views contrary to the status quo loving Washington swamp establishment.
In all of this, one thing is abundantly clear – there will be no complete victors in the war between conservatives and the Liz Cheney band of NeverTrumpers. Mike Pence looks to be preparing a run for president but he won’t get far without a massive change in attitudes among Republicans. Ron DeSantis appears to be a solid non-Trump possibility, but everyone is waiting around to see what Trump decides and hope to consolidate after this year’s midterm elections.
Meanwhile, only the establishment media cares about where Cheney and the small collection of NeverTrumpers plan to make camp. Democrats won’t welcome them; Trump Republicans won’t either, and Independents do pretty much whatever they want to do until election time.
We’re likely getting close to a Trump 2024 announcement. How will the cards fall after that?
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