Sunday, April 01, 2018


Don't worry if you haven't read Frank Bruni's Ann Coulter interview in The New York Times -- there's very little news in it. If it's noteworthy at all, it's primarily because she's calling herself a "Former Trumper."

Bruni writes:
A week ago, when [Trump] signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill with nothing for his promised border wall, [Coulter's] frustrations with him, expressed frequently in her syndicated columns, turned into fury. “Congratulations, President Schumer!” she tweeted to more than 1.9 million followers. She also fantasized on Twitter about his impeachment.

During an appearance at Columbia University on Tuesday night, she referred to him as a “shallow, lazy ignoramus.” And during a long conversation with me at The Times on Thursday afternoon, she sent him a warning about the wrath he’d face if the wall doesn’t rise: “The Former Trumpers should keep Donald Trump awake at night.”
It's all about the wall, of course.
Bruni: The $1.3 trillion spending bill that he signed last week sent you over the edge.

Coulter: Yes. This is a different category you’re seeing now: Former Trumpers. That should be terrifying to the president.... We have been betrayed over and over and over with presidents promising to do something about immigration. If he played us for suckers, oh, you will not see rage like you have seen....

Bruni: He didn’t get the money for the wall. Tell me quickly what else is wrong with that spending bill.

Coulter: I don’t know what more horrible thing you could come up with than violating your central campaign promise that became the chant and the theme of the campaign that he promised at every single rally. I mean, implementing the principles of “The Communist Manifesto” wouldn’t be more of a betrayal than that....

Bruni: Are you a Former Trumper?

Coulter: He can still come back. If he builds the wall, he’ll be the Emperor God again. I’ll throw a huge party. I’ll start a committee to put him on Mount Rushmore. But right now, if I were a betting woman, I don’t think we’re getting a wall.
I'm drawing your attention to this not because I think you should care what Ann Coulter thinks. I mention it because a lot of people think it's possible that Trump will have a primary challenger in 2020, and are hoping that a rational, reasonable Republican could defeat him in the primaries.

Notice that Coulter is attacking Trump from the right. She says he's not being heartless enough on immigration. This isn't new, of course: She was upset in January when a Trump confab with congressional leaders turned into what she called a "DACA lovefest." She was angry in August when Trump seemed to be more focused on tax cuts than on immigration. ("Cutting taxes doesn't do a damn thing for wages if you allow businesses to keep bringing in cheap foreign labor!" she tweeted.)

And yet she's still a member in good standing of the conservative punditocracy. She continues to make frequent appearances on Fox News. Other Trump-skeptical conservative pundits -- Bill Kristol, Bret Stephens, David Frum, David Brooks, Jennifer Rubin -- are persona non grata on Fox. They attack him on honesty, competence, personal morality, respect for American institutions, and attitude toward Russia. At times they sound like liberal Trump critics.

Coulter doesn't. She sounds Trumpier than Trump. And that's why she's still welcome on Fox.

This is a preview of what might happen if there's an opening for an alternative candidate to Trump in 2020. The base might accept someone other than Trump, depending on the circumstances -- but only if that alternative candidate seems meaner and nastier than Trump. It's not going to be someone like Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, or John Kasich -- the political equivalents of the persona non grata pundits listed above. If another candidate is going to take the nomination from Trump, it's going to be a candidate who talks like Ann Coulter. That's still the only variety of anti-Trumpism that's acceptable to the base.

If Trump is successfully challenged, it'll be by someone who says that Trump isn't tough enough or angry enough or pitiless enough. We just need to watch Fox if we want to know what arguments the Republican base finds plausible. The only anti-Trump argument that qualifies is the one Ann Coulter makes.

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