Misunderstanding Donald Trump
Hope and Longwell is not a plan...
For all the words about Donald Trump’s sway over America, I actually don’t think his impact has been anything close to sufficiently captured.
His influence has been so vast, it is hard to quantify or qualify.
He made it possible for Joe Biden to become president, after that seemed impossible to most everyone for decades -- including to Barack Obama.
He made Ron DeSantis into a national figure by: one, endorsing him; two, creating a template for how to thrive as an angry/idealistic populist; and three, opening up a vacuum through bad behaviors, including January 6th. It all made room for the Florida governor to rise faster and deeper than almost anyone else ever has in presidential politics.
He fundamentally altered the political careers of Mitt Romney and Ronna Romney McDaniel by turning one into an extremely complicated figure trying to save the Republican Party and the other into a cartoon character who has essentially shattered it.
And he has caused Blue America to go from thinking that Dick Cheney was the most consequential villain and liar in our times to believing he is, along with his daughter Liz, one of the most consequential heroes and truth tellers about the biggest political nightmare/reality in our nation’s history.
I have three separate book ideas that I believe (forgive the immodesty) would all be among the best books ever written about Trump.
If any of you would like to hire me or partner with me financially to write and publish them, I look forward to hearing from you!
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s discuss it. (Seriously.)
There are so many extraordinary elements to Dick Cheney’s 60 second campaign ad on behalf of his daughter’s re-election effort.
If you haven’t watched the spot yet, I recommend it to you:
The enduring mystery and pain of the reality that almost no prominent Republicans have repeated Cheney’s words is one we all will be trying to explain to future generations. And by “all,” I include Rob Portman and Tom Cole in there.
On the other hand, watch and read the recent speech by Thomas D. Klingenstein on “Trump’s Virtues,” and you will get a much different perspective on Trump – and perhaps a renewed sense of how he has maintained his hold on the party:
Many leading Republicans and conservatives want someone other than Donald Trump to run for President in 2024. But this judgment requires an assessment of Trump’s vices and virtues in the context of our current political and cultural circumstances, as well as an assessment of other prospective Republican presidential candidates. Among the talked-about alternatives to Trump, I have not yet seen anyone who possesses either his virtues or his backbone. I am not suggesting that everyone make way for Trump; rather that it is too early to throw him overboard.
I regularly ask Republican politicians what they think of Donald Trump. The most frequent response is some version of, “I like his policies but don’t like the rest of him.” But this formulation gets it almost backwards. Although Trump advanced many important policies, it is the “rest of him” that contains the virtues that inspired a movement.
I will say again (because someone really needs to be saying this a lot): One of the biggest reasons that Donald Trump is now the most likely person to be elected president in 2024 is, ironically and paradoxically, the Dominant Media’s continued efforts to both write him off and kill him politically.
The latest example is this Washington Post piece, which comically goes back to the well to quote Sarah Longwell’s mystical/magical focus groups as the leading indicator of the man’s demise:
[I]nterviews with dozens of Republican primary voters here suggest that voting for Trump’s preferred midterm candidates is not the same as eagerly wishing to vote again for Trump himself. While these voters continued to express support for Trump and his agenda, many doubted he would be the best nominee for president and showed openness to potential rivals, most often Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis….
[R]ecent polls and focus groups suggest… softening enthusiasm for a third Trump campaign. A New York Times-Siena College poll in July found that 49 percent of Republican primary voters said they would support Trump again. In focus groups since the Jan. 6 committee hearings began, anti-Trump Republican strategist Sarah Longwell observed a distinct drop-off in Trump’s support, with no participants wanting him to run again, after dozens of panels in which half the people supported Trump and the rest were open to it.
Longwell said these voters aren’t being persuaded by the hearings so much as they’re exhausted with the Trump circus and bored of his fixation on the 2020 election, when they would rather hear him attack Biden and blame the Democrats for inflation.
“Now it’s like there’s people who are hard nos explaining to the soft pro-Trump-running-again people why it’s a bad idea,” Longwell, who co-hosts the Bulwark’s “Focus Group” podcast, said in a recent interview. “And if you’ve done as many of these as I have, that is a notable difference.”
Longwell cautioned that she had seen past instances of people drifting away from Trump after major news events such as his defense of white-supremacist marchers in Charlottesville or his suggestion that injecting bleach could treat the coronavirus. One reason this time might be different is that voters now have other leaders to choose from, such as DeSantis, who Longwell said is the most frequently named alternative.
Pro tip #1: If you are relying on Sarah Longwell’s focus groups to write the Trump political obit, you might not be onto something.
Pro tip #2: Read Rich Lowry’s very shrewd take evaluating Trump’s political standing now versus in 2015:
2015 means Trump 3.0 is not to be trifled with or lightly dismissed. It also means, once again, there are potential chinks in his armor.
I agree with Lowry: Trump is in some ways stronger now than in 2015 -- and in some significant ways weaker.
But if he chooses to run, stopping him for the nomination is both possible and/but unlikely.
But/and if you are counting on the Justice Department, a Georgia prosecutor, Trump’s fear of losing, or his health to keep him from getting back to the White House, I would suggest you should go shopping for some suspenders to go with that belt.
To be continued….
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1. With Senator Sinema on board the reconciliation train, I upgrade the chances of the Democrats package getting to President Biden’s desk to 78.5%.
High-priced lobbyists remain one of the wild cards. Check out this Politico interview with one such cat, whose boldness and explicit words seem to be a sign of weakness and worry. It takes a lot to shock me when it comes to DC influence peddling, but WOW:
Steve Ubl, who leads the nation’s top industry group for drugmakers, is offering a final salvo to Congress as Democratic lawmakers inch closer to passing their sweeping reconciliation package that includes drug pricing measures — and threatening swift retaliation if they don’t listen, he told POLITICO.
Ubl’s group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, and its 31 board members sent a letter to every member of Congress on Thursday afternoon, urging them to vote against the package.
PhRMA, not accustomed to losing legislative fights, has waged a multimillion-dollar advocacy campaign against the drug pricing measures, and is crafting contingency plans if they fail. In addition to hinting at running campaign ads against Democrats in tough races this fall, the industry is assessing its legal options and pondering future regulatory or legislative fixes.
“Regardless of the outcome in the coming weeks, this fight isn’t over,” Ubl said in an interview. “Few associations have all the tools of modern political advocacy at their disposal in the way that PhRMA does.”
2. Peggy Noonan outdoes herself with her reaction to both the Kansas abortion vote and to the way the pro-life community is handling…everything:
The public face of the pro-life movement looks at the moment loony and vicious….
We live in a democracy. The pro-life side rightly asked for a democratic solution to a gnawing national problem. To succeed, they need baseline political skills. You persuade people as to the rightness of your vision. You act and speak in good faith so they trust you. You anticipate mischievous and dishonest representations of where you stand. You highlight them and face them. There has in fact been a lot of misrepresentation of where pro-lifers stand and why, and what their proposals will achieve. You have to clear the air. You can win a lot with candor and good faith. You can impress by being prepared and ready.
Most important, there is a political tradition in democracy that consists of these words: “That’s asking too much.” Don’t ask people for more than they can give. Don’t go too far, don’t lose by asking for a sweeping decision when people will be willing to go step by step. Ask for as much as they can give, pull them toward your vision, but don’t be afraid of going slow and steady, be afraid of overloading the grid. That’s part of what happened in Kansas: They were asked to take a step they thought extreme, and they don’t like extreme.
You have to be clear in explaining how society will arrange itself if you get the measure you asked for. In this case, the pro-life cause, conservatives and the Republican Party have the chance to speak of, laud and increase state and private help for women bearing children in difficult circumstances. The antiabortion movement will never really succeed unless it is paired in the public mind with compassion for the struggling. The Republican Party had the chance to align itself with women. Has it taken it? Or is it too busy talking about “impregnating” those you find unattractive?
3. The New York Times has an early but important look at how Republican candidates and consultants are reacting to just what Ms. Noonan cites, adjusting their rhetoric and legislative aims, at least a bit, to get more in line with public opinion.
4. The Chinese ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, gets two bites at the Washington Post apple, with an op-ed piece and some news.
The op-ed is the kind of old-timey communist propaganda for which I have both a soft spot and deep fascination:
If an American state were to secede from the United States and declare independence, and then some other nation provided weapons and political support for that state, would the U.S. government — or the American people — allow this to happen?...
With both covid--19 and the Ukraine conflict growing into protracted crises, it is high time for China and the United States to strengthen cooperation and work with other countries to find solutions. Instead, some politicians choose to damage China’s core interests, either to seek the limelight or to cement their political legacy. Their actions will only erode China-U.S. relations and subject our peoples and militaries to peril.
And here is the news:
The White House summoned China’s ambassador on Thursday to condemn Beijing’s escalating actions against Taiwan and reiterate that the United States does not want a crisis in the region, after a visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island sharply escalated tensions in the Taiwan Strait this week.
“After China’s actions overnight, we summoned [People’s Republic of China] Ambassador Qin Gang to the White House to démarche him about the PRC’s provocative actions,” White House spokesman John Kirby said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “We condemned the PRC’s military actions, which are irresponsible and at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” A démarche is a protest lodged through diplomatic channels….
The meeting, which has not been previously reported, was between Kurt Campbell, deputy assistant to President Biden and coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, and Qin, according to a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of a private conversation.
5. If you think, as almost everybody does, that Jay Powell is not the right person to be running the Fed now, then this Politico story is for you. Topic D at Sunday’s Lauriol Plaza brunch for the Gang of 500 – is Powell Trump’s fault or Biden’s?
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