Despite (and perhaps partially thanks to) the former president’s arrest and arraignment earlier this week in New York, he’s the current front-runner in the race to be the Republican Party’s nominee for the 2024 presidential election. If successful in his bid to reappear on the ballot, Trump won’t be alone – he’ll of course have a running mate. At present, the most likely candidate for vice-president on a Trump ticket appears to be Kari Lake (pictured). Photo credit: AP
In the right-wing Twittersphere, the scuttlebutt gaining a lot of attention has Kari Lake, the former Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, as Trump’s favoured choice to be his 2024 running mate if he claims the top spot on the GOP ticket next year.
The machinations going into this possibility make the mind swim. When Mr. Trump took office in 2017 at age 70, his VP, Mike Pence, had served in Congress for a dozen years and had been serving as the Governor of Indiana. His qualifications for the office were not massive, but he certainly fit comfortably into the window of experience expected and required to meet the threshold of the presidency.
If Mr. Trump claims back his old office, he would take over in January 2025 at age 78 and be hoping to survive until January 2029 at age 82. Having watched President Biden conduct office at age 80 should not bring comfort to anyone that Mr. Trump will be able to serve a second term with good health, vigorous energy, or clarity of mind. We still don’t know if Mr. Biden will survive his term and we now know that Democrats, fearful of a Kamala Harris candidacy, plan to push Mr. Biden into a re-election campaign at age 82, making him closer to 90 than 80 if he were to serve a full second term.
These already determined facts should give great pause to the idea that Mr. Trump, soon to be an octogenarian, should choose anything less than a plausible, mature, and serious candidate for his vice-presidential partner. Ms. Lake not only does not meet those standards, but she has also clearly disqualified herself politically and behaviourally. The idea of her becoming president should disturb anyone thinking that the president should not only be intellectually disposed, but temperamentally suited.
Kari Lake spent most of her career in the media. Her political views have vacillated back and forth causing her to switch between the two major parties over a period of about 15 years (circa 2004 – 2020). She supported John Kerry and Barack Obama for President, donated to other Democratic presidential candidates, and seemed fairly confused about her own understanding of what she believed philosophically, although certain that she wanted to be on the winning side.
This opportunism and desire to self-promote and ensure her own viability appear to most characterize her political endeavours. Where she stands on the issues today appears to indicate a tack to the right on cultural matters and an alignment with a more neo-isolationist foreign policy. Whether that works for her today, but not in the future remains to be seen. What her record shows reveals instability, immaturity, and unpredictability. These qualities should not be associated with the presidency. Most failed presidencies have fallen on these traits. Let’s hear some of what Lake has said in public.
First, Ms. Lake has a large problem with her political instincts. Take this instruction given to voters at a campaign rally four days before the fall 2022 election when Lake stood as the Republican nominee for governor of Arizona. Hear Lake roar, “We don’t have any McCain Republicans in here, do we?”, Lake asked from a campaign stage. “Alright, get the hell out,” she said, before adding, “Boy, Arizona has delivered some losers, haven’t they?”
Now, I may be wrong, but I believe John McCain served as the Republican senator from 1986 until his death in 2018, covering a period of 34 years. That means McCain won six statewide races, never failing to get less than about 54 per cent of the vote and getting about 76 per cent in 2004. When running a campaign in Arizona, besides the legendary Barry Goldwater, no one else possesses the robust success of John McCain.
How a stable or legitimate candidate would expect to win a Governor’s race in Arizona as a Republican while telling McCain voters to basically pound sand demonstrates a strange kind of logic. The same logic explains why she then insisted on claiming she had won her race against the charmless Katie Hobbs, a Democratic nominee who only won because she had the good fortune of facing the one Republican she could beat. Nonetheless, faced with results that proved otherwise, and after telling a loyal Republican base to get lost, she still felt confident that electoral fraud explained her loss.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump’s harangues about a stolen election have hard-wired many Republicans to mistrust most elections, but especially ones involving MAGA candidates. Ms. Lake, if nothing else, reflects this recently minted adage that elections are only fair-when-you-win mentality.
Secondly, Lake owns no voting block of her own. What would she add to a Republican ticket? Sarah Palin’s candidacy should have cured the Republican Party of selecting little know politicians from obscurity. At least Palin won her race for governor of Alaska. Lake would offer no successful campaign experience and only bring the baggage of “election denier” to the table, as if Donald Trump did not already carry around a piano on his back.
Other than an aggrieved and bitter wing of the Arizonan political party, Lake’s constituency would fit under an umbrella, and she could not even assure Trump of the votes needed to win her home state, given she has so badly offended the McCain voters.
Finally, Lake’s appeal to the hard right may enthuse that segment of the party, but a national election requires a wide appeal, not narrow magnetism. Lake reminds one of the famous two-faced girl in a Seinfeld episode who looked different depending on the lighting. Through a MAGA light Lake looks gorgeous, in an average-voter light she looks scary.
The GOP needs something more like Nikki Haley who can broaden the base and brings governing experience, Tim Scott who generates an optimistic vibe for the party, or a credible governor with gravitas like Brian Kemp of Georgia, Greg Abbott of Texas, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, or Kristi Neom of South Dakota.
None of these are likely to run with Donald Trump because they have avoided the Trump orbit or neglected to pay homage to the MAGA club. They are also unlikely to want to smear their reputations with Trump’s unique ability to offend, belittle, and mock. Ask Mike Pence how associating himself with Donald Trump has furthered his career.
If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee in 2024, the GOP should put Kari Lake in a witness protection program to ensure Trump does not select her, and then let the convention pick his VP candidate. No one could be worse than Kari Lake as Donald Trump’s running mate unless Hilary Clinton decided she wanted to self-identify as a Republican in a desperate attempt to find a way back to the White House.
Dave Redekop is a retired elementary resource teacher who now works part-time at the St. Catharines Courthouse as a Registrar. He has worked on political campaigns since high school and attended university in South Carolina for five years, where he earned a Master’s in American History with a specialization in Civil Rights. Dave loves reading biographies.