Playing with political fire

Both the Republican Party and the dominate media appear willing to play with fire and see to it that Donald Trump wins the 2024 nomination. Photo credit: AP/Evan Vucci


As the 2024 presidential campaign shifts into a new gear, those in the Republican Party appear determined once again to nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. Meanwhile, the dominant media, convinced that Trump represents the easiest Republican for Joe Biden to defeat are all in on again promoting Trump on their platforms while denouncing him as unfit to serve. Both sides seem intent on playing with fire. 

The Republican Party, losers of the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections, having watched the party go from controlling the White House and Congress in 2016 to losing them all in 2020 under President Trump, look determined to ignore the potential conviction of the former chief executive as a felon. With two indictments on the board, and up to three more in the quiver, Republican voters remain loyal to Trump. Meanwhile, the fourth estate, always ready to elevate another Trump scandal, cannot do enough to discredit Trump’s main competitor for the nomination, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. 

The calculation works this way: DeSantis could win enough independent voters to defeat Biden. Trump continues to struggle with those voters, meaning Joe Biden, as weak as he looks, probably can beat Trump. The media, hateful in all ways at the thought of Trump returning to power, are rolling the dice on the untested theory that Joe Biden, at 82, can pull off what he did in 2020 during COVID. Running a campaign free of crowds, away from any difficult questions some in the press might ask, and using pandemic-era voting methods to harvest ballots. 

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has about 75 per cent of its members openly stating they are prepared to support the former president’s efforts to reboot his administration four years after leaving office under a cloud of investigations and a second impeachment. The subsequent indictments have only served to fire up these loyalists. Trying to convince them otherwise only fuels their rabid devotion to him. 

The risk for the GOP lies in hoping that the other 25 per cent of the party, the RINOs (Republicans in Name Only, according to the Trump faction), come out to support Trump and not choose to sit out the election. This possibility not only would deny Trump the White House, but it would hurt down-ballot Republican candidates leading to the Democrats not only retaining the presidency but also winning both Houses of Congress.  

Since the only thing that seems to stand between Trump and the nomination is a major health issue, his inevitable coronation means an existential conundrum faces the party. Legal charges, the threat of conviction, and even jail time will not deter the Trumplicans from supporting Trump. His obvious shortcomings and weak standing in the country (outside his devoted fan base), should make him vulnerable, but no one, including Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, poses a threat. One of the candidates could take a bold and brave stand, calling out Trump for his reckless choices, undisciplined behaviour, and losing record, but that has its dangers. 

No one gets uglier than Trump in a name-calling contest, plays dirtier politics, or gets as personally insulting as the former TV host. Whatever candidate would decide to throw a “Hail Mary” on that strategy may never be heard from again. I suspect the Republican Party’s days may be short. The Party at 123 years old, having bestowed upon the country nominees like Lincoln, McKinley, Coolidge, Eisenhower, Reagan, and both father and son Bush needs renewal. Rather than trying to overcome the Trump coterie, a new conservative party, devoted to small-government principles could begin anew, leaving the former president’s party devoid of enough support to win elections and perhaps chastened enough to return to its roots. Of course, there remains the chance Trump wins all bets are off. 

As for the dominant media, their play already backfired in 2016. When it came back on them, they refused to accept the voters’ verdict and pursued with great vigour the Russian storyline that proved to be made up and impossible to confirm. Having invested more investigative resources than ever, they now cheer on any prosecutor in any case who has been willing to bring charges against Trump. They claim they seek to protect American democracy from this overwhelming threat, yet promote him on their programs and platforms, daring the right-leaning voters to again nominate him. To their chagrin (and their strange delight), their lack of credibility due to the Russian charges, COVID preoccupation, and other biased reporting on behalf of the Biden administration has only reinforced Trump’s support as his backers double-down.

Both sides give the impression they are determined to play with fire. The Republican Party has the potential to blow the campaign wide open with the nomination of a younger nominee, one with executive experience, a person of colour, or any number of storylines that could devastate another Biden candidacy. Instead, if the polls hold, Donald Trump will be their nominee with almost no chance of appealing to the independent voters he will need to win. On the other hand, the dominant media insist on promoting Trump, attacking his foremost opponent, and providing opportunities for Trump to broadcast his inventive idea of Making America Great Again (whatever that means). 

Since they reluctantly report on Joe Biden’s corruption and slow decline into senility, they believe they can manage the campaign and ensure another Biden term. Another revelation about the Biden family’s foreign money profits, or more examples of the president struggling to find words, falling asleep in an interview, or getting lost on a stage increases the chances that the Republican nominee, even if Trump, could win.

Playing with political fire can imperil a nation. Before Biden v Trump Part Two occurs, let’s hope someone blows out the match. 

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