Don't let Trump run in a crowed field!
The party needs to rally behind the strongest challenger to the modern-day Joe McCarthy. Trump on the other hand, wants a primary where all the other candidates get small pieces of the pie and his 30% of die-hard followers gift him the nomination.
Only the Voters Can Crush Donald Trump
Party professionals and elders have a role to play in making it easier. The first step: Narrow the field.
Peggy Noonan, WSJ
Dec. 8, 2022 6:15 pm ET
Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won re-election last month by 7.5 points. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger won re-election by 9.2. Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker lost his Tuesday runoff by 2.7. Neither Mr. Kemp nor Mr. Raffensperger was a Donald Trump ally; both resisted his demands to alter the state’s 2020 election tally. Mr. Walker was handpicked by Mr. Trump, and all in on his issues.
The GOP is strong in the Peach Tree State; its turnout in November was high. But the party is full of Republicans and conservatives who won’t back strange and unqualified candidates simply because they have the Trump imprimatur. Some were repelled by that imprimatur.
Mr. Trump has looked bad since his weak and formless presidential announcement last month—dining with anti-Semites and white supremacists, meeting with Q supporters, calling for the Constitution to be waived to return him to office. He appears to be deliberately marginalizing himself. There is a debate whether we are witnessing the end of Mr. Trump. But here is the truth: Only the voters can crush Mr. Trump.
It’s good if senators come forward and deplore his latest antics, if party operatives cast doubt on his viability and writers and thinkers on the right deplore him. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that voters on the ground turn away from him. That is how it ends. Any other way and he says the swamp did him in. Voters have to show no, it was us, and we’re not the swamp.
In 2024 Mr. Trump will have to be crushed in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, if that is still the Republican schedule. If that happens, he is revealed as without clout or muscle, and disappears as a force.
For those who wish the continuance of the Republican Party there are two big jobs ahead.
For party elders, to the extent they still exist, and for donors and operatives and professionals, that means doing everything you can to make sure the 2024 primary field isn’t a crowded one. In 2016, there were 17 candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. In early contests Mr. Trump consistently won with about a third of the vote, more than enough to dominate a field that size. He won New Hampshire with 35%, Vermont with 33%, Virginia with 35%. He had a tight moment in Iowa, with 24% to Ted Cruz’s 28%. But not until April did Mr. Trump get to 50% in any state’s primary.
A year ago, Mr. Trump still scared people out of the field. Now he doesn’t. They’re starting to line up. Responsible candidates should come forward only if they satisfy two requirements. One is that they have a real shot, a significant base of support. The other is that they are saying something so singular, so necessary to the debate, so pertinent to the moment that their absence would be a form of dereliction.
Candidates for president are notoriously bad at judging their own motives and prospects. They’re gamblers looking to win; gamblers tell themselves stories. “They start with belief and end with hunger,” the veteran New York political strategist David Garth said to me once of politicians. Donors, however, can be cooler. This year they should function as clear-eyed political cops and not let a crowd form.
The job of state and local party leaders is to persuade Trump supporters on the ground to turn their energy toward candidates who can win. Trump supporters are proud people who are protective of their despised champion, but they are by definition politically engaged, and the vast majority love their country. The party divide between Trump and not-Trump is a human problem and must be solved by humans.
Tact never hurts in a tight spot. Local leaders should go, regularly, to Trump people—asking for their time, conceding they are a significant part of the base, emphasizing areas of policy agreement.
The spirit should be “acknowledge, don’t avoid.” Republicans can’t win on their issues if they don’t do it together. The independents of America, the suburbs, the moderates by thinking and temperament—they won’t vote for Mr. Trump again, if they ever did. His numbers are sinking; he can’t put wins on the board. If both sides don’t drop their anger and resentment, they’ll wind up living together in Loserville, like the Hatfields and McCoys spending all their time shooting at each other from behind boulders while the Democratic Party thrives.
Mr. Trump undid a party establishment nobody liked, stomped it and threw it out the window. Acknowledge that. The Democrats and Republicans together played with illegal immigration as an issue, while Mr. Trump treated it with respect, at least up to a point. He appointed conservative judges. Twenty sixteen can fairly be called a policy breakthrough time, but now the party is gearing up for a presidential election that is eight years beyond it. History moves only forward. If you want progress on the border, you can get it—by voting for the person who succeeds Mr. Trump. Trump supporters need to hear they can be a constituent group within a party, or they can be a death cult hurtling down a highway in the dark.
The conversation needs to be had and the above doesn’t begin to cover it. It will be a long, person-by-person, group-by-group slog, precinct to precinct, internet site to internet site. Not-Trump party officials have to speak the truth as they see it, and explicitly speak the logic of unity. They should take all questions and comers and laugh when they make fun of you, which they will.
But it’s a necessary slog.
I end with the observation that it is still a matter of belief among Mr. Trump’s followers that he was a transformational figure in the Reagan mold. Of the differences between them—fidelity to the Constitution, seriousness about and knowledge of the issues, and personal dignity among them—the most obvious is this: Reagan transformed the party without splitting it. He changed its nature while uniting it. He took a party that had grown vague and formless and, to put it in broadest terms, split between New England Yankees and Southern California right-wingers and blended them together.
He made what endured for two generations: a united conservative party. He didn’t kill the liberal New Englanders; he blended them in. He didn’t kill the Birchers; he allowed them to blend in as if they had no recourse but to join him. He did this in part through temperamental moderation—he was a person you could cut deals with, who’d understand your starting principles. But he did it primarily through electoral force—two historic landslides, including a 49-state sweep. Every politician realized: You better jump aboard the Reagan Express because your own voters already have.
Mr. Trump had no interest in unifying, never saw its purpose—never won a landslide or attracted broad public support. He broke the party with an adolescent glee. See what I destroyed! But he never built anything that would last in its place.
The next two years is about rebuilding.