Yes, He Will Burn It All Down

If Donald Trump can’t dominate the party, then he will seek to destroy it.

From The Bulwark, by A.B. Stoddard:

At his tired Vegas lounge act of a campaign announcement on November 15, Trump read from the prompter and it was so boring people tried to leave early. He was being disciplined and didn’t even mention the Big Lie—but he still included his essential ingredient, the persecution complex. “I’m a victim. I will tell you, I’m a victim,” he said. And this is what binds his most fervent supporters and remains his most potent weapon. Because his base knows that Trump is not just a victim of the Department of Justice, or a district attorney in Georgia, or the attorney general of New York—he is a victim of the RINOs complaining about his role in the midterms and coordinating to puff up DeSantis just because they can’t bring themselves to admit that overturning Roe had electoral consequences.

Trump has, at worst, about an even-money chance to win the Republican nomination. Before the midterms, Vanity Fair reported DeSantis was willing to wait for 2028 so he wouldn’t have to take on Trump. That was before he ran up the score in his re-election contest. But beating Charlie Crist in an increasingly red state while successfully ignoring Trump isn’t the same thing as beating Trump for the nomination. Just as releasing a campaign video claiming “God made a fighter” isn’t the same as actually fighting Trump, either.

And look at the rest of the Republican field: What’s their argument? None of them are running against Trump’s lawlessness or tyrannical instincts and they aren’t likely to distinguish themselves from each other on policy. What they think they can do is position themselves as polished Trumpists—savvier, more sophisticated culture warriors willing to dabble in illiberalism or authoritarian socialism, like using the state to attack the private sector. If the candidates nominated in 2020 and 2022 were more Trumpy, not less, the 2024 Republican contenders will likely run as Trump-lite, not as alternatives. If they do, then Trump has the best shot to win.


And Republicans have another handicap in their attempt to unseat Trump: They have to worry that if Trump falls behind in the primary polls and another clear leader emerges, he will leave and trash everyone. He won’t wait to lose the nomination, since he cannot permit an actual defeat. He will eject himself in advance and campaign against the party.

Chaos always wins. Trump can just grab Kari Lake or Marjorie Taylor Greene or whoever the MAGA Girl Wonder is that month and go nuts. He can pretend to start some candidacy somewhere, raise money, and sabotage the GOP nominee. And some portion of his voters will believe he has been cheated again, sold out by RINOs, and that voting Republican would be no different than voting for a woke socialist.

Trump has prepared perfectly for this final conflagration, because his supporters know fraud follows him everywhere. When Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses it was rigged. When Hillary Clinton won the popular vote it was rigged. 2020—obviously rigged. And so the 2024 contest is his to be had—or it’s rigged, too.

Most importantly, this campaign is a shield for Trump. He trusts his supporters will believe that any criminal charges he faces will be fake witch-hunts. He expects to raise a lot of money off of the outrage, and he also expects these developments to flummox his Republican opponents and adversaries.

Because if there is a reckoning and Trump faces justice, are his Republican opponents going to defend the Biden Justice Department or Fani Willis, and tell Republican primary voters that the charges are credible and Trump’s conduct was criminal? Will they tell the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to chill out and stop threatening the lives of law enforcement and prosecutors and judges and their families?

How could they? These same people spent the last five years defending Trump from “witch hunts” and “fake news” and all the rest. They helped prime Republican voters to believe this stuff.

Trump understands that anyone who dares to get into the race with him will have to agree that yes, it’s all a political persecution and Trump is innocent and that the best way to own the libs is to vote for him again. He’s the best middle finger available. They will have to say this because if they don’t, then they will either lose the primary or lose some sizable percentage of Republican voters.

Trump rode to power by fighting the Republican establishment because he understood that it was weak. He realized that whatever Republican elites might say, they’ll always come to heel. Grab ’em by the insurrection. You can do whatever you want.

Does the Republican establishment seem more powerful today than it was in 2015? And if, for some reason, Republican elites do hold out this time and line up against him, is there any reason to think that Trump will not torch them all on the way out the door?

When Republican elites say they want to move on from Trump because he hurts their party’s electoral chances, they’re telegraphing their own vulnerability. They’re admitting that they care more about winning Republican seats than anything else. Donald Trump does not care if the GOP ever wins again. And this gives him leverage over them.

If Republicans don’t understand this already, they soon will.

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