A million things could happen between now and the end of the primary season, but the learned pundits writing Donald Trump’s political obituary are a little too optimistic. Political opinion columns are just for people who still read political opinion columns, after all. (To paraphrase Bruce Willis, in case you wondered.)
Trump is Not Irrelevant
The pundits’ evidence for Trump’s political irrelevance is highly selective to say the least. While one poll shows that Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would prefer another choice, those Republican-leaning independents usually don’t get to vote in Republican primaries. And the Republicans who do vote in Republican primaries still prefer Trump. If the primaries were held today, Trump would win.
Pundits then argue that when Republicans get to know Ron DeSantis, they will vote for him instead.
I’m not sure why these sage pundits want Ron DeSantis to be president instead of Trump, given his generally Trumpist philosophy.
But even assuming that DeSantian Trumpism without Trump is desirable, one must consider that, in 2016, when he was just a reality TV star, Trump managed to destroy his Republican primary opposition thanks to laser-sharp instincts and name recognition. One presumed front-runner after another fell to his cunning and name-calling. Trump’s political instincts remain astute and intuitive, his name recognition surpasses all comers, and today he not a TV star, he is the leader of the party.
DeSantis is Not the Front-Runner for the Nomination
DeSantis is not the primaries’ front-runner now, there is no reason to believe that he will become the front-runner in the future, numerous local politicians have faltered on the national stage and it’s unclear why any of these learned wise men of punditry believe DeSantis can withstand a Trumpian assault and overthrow the Republican King.
DeSantis’s huge landslide state-level reelection — which so impresses the pundits — has given him a real sheen of presidential inevitability, of which state governors like Rick Perry of Texas, Jeb Bush of Florida and New Jersey’s Chris Christie could once boast. So much for that.
The simple fact is that in the primaries, Trump remains the front-runner.
Yes, that may change.
But there is no reason to assume and predict that it will change merely based on a successful but weaker-than-anticipated midterms election.
After all, Trump himself lost the presidential election, plotted insurrection and stole state secrets, and none of that dislodged him from his perch. Why this? There is no evidence that this will stick, when so many other catastrophes have not.
OK, say the pundits, Trump may triumph in the primaries. But the mid-terms showed that, while loony Trumpists may triumph in Republican primaries, they won’t win a general election!
Two responses to this.
The Midterms Did Not Repudiate Trump
First: Yes, it is true that America voted as one against the GOP in the general election this time around, revolted by its Trumpist takeover.
But, because the gerrymandered electoral math of the House and the Constitutional oddities of the Senate both favor the Republicans, an election in which America firmly and decisively rejected Trumpism has put a Trumpist in charge of the House and nearly resulted in a Trumpist takeover of the Senate.
In spite of everything, the Dems lost the House and hung onto the Senate very very narrowly. The Trumpist Kevin McCarthy will soon wield the speaker’s gavel.
This is a repudiation of Trump? This is evidence that Trump cannot win?
It is correct that Trump’s triumph did not easily translate into success for those, like Dr. Oz, who are less instinctual blowhards and who therefore wear Trumpism less easily.
Trump’s success cannot just be passed around like a doobie. A doobie works for everyone. A Trumpian persona does not. But it works for Trump.
So Dr. Oz’s failure to impersonate Trump says nothing about Trump’s own political abilities, which have already been so readily demonstrated.
Math, Math, Math
Second, in any Presidential general election, the Electoral College winner-take-all math favors the Republican Party regardless of how the popular vote turns out.
In both new and old swing states where the pundits’ supposedly “normal” Republicans reign, like Florida and Georgia, those normal Republicans, DeSantis and Brian Kemp, have implemented harsh voter suppression laws that will make it very difficult for a Democrat to prevail.
In 2020, facing dire political headwinds, Trump almost won; a few hundred votes here and there in a couple of states, and we’d be MAGA right now, and forever.
It doesn’t really matter what the vast majority of Americans want or how they vote, if they even manage to vote: whoever prevails in the Republican presidential primary is favored to prevail in the presidential election.
And become president.
Right now, Trump is favored to prevail in the Republican primary.
And so Trump is favored to be our next president.
On the other hand, I could be wrong.
Photo by Polina Zimmerman