Monday, December 02, 2019


I've been saying for a while that the Republican Party won't return to even Bush-era "normalcy" (which was bad enough) once Donald Trump is out of office -- sorry, Nikki Haley and John Kasich, but the next Republican presidential nominee will be a Trumpite. Ross Barkan agrees, and he makes a point that hadn't occurred to me: The next GOP nominee will be a Trumpite because Trump will turn the contest into a test of the candidates' loyalty to him.
I’ve heard Democrats hope that Trump’s departure from the White House, whenever that may be, will render him irrelevant. But he is no Obama. He will not hesitate, as an absurdly famous and retired person with time on his hands, to intervene in every political controversy imaginable. He will take sides in primaries. He will troll old rivals. He will celebrate slavishly loyal friends. The next open Republican primary will likely morph into an extended courtship of Donald Trump. Trump, like his old Apprentice self, will decide who to hire and fire in the Republican contest. One lucky winner will have the nomination. The only way to win Trump’s affection, of course, will be to do and say exactly as he does, to double-down on his darkness, to appease the king. The next Republican primary will be a race to lock out as many immigrants from America as possible, to flood the nation with as many guns as possible, and to outlaw, for good, the right to an abortion. Fox News, the GOP’s reliable propaganda network, will goad the contestants on. Every week or so, an aged Trump can take to the airwaves and weigh in, like a bloviating sports talk show host, on the progress of his candidates. This is the future that awaits us.
I believe the GOP electorate will demand a Trumper in any event, but this is so obvious I can't believe it never occurred to me: Of course Trump will want to turn the primaries into a Trump reality series.

Barkan believes that Democrats are foolishly optimistic about the state of the post-Trump GOP.
There is a naive belief, among a certain coastal set, that Trump’s demise will liberate the political order and restore sanity. Republicans will rediscover their moderation. Democratic norms will be become sacred again. These are the same people who usually call Trump a singular threat to American democracy, forgetting George W. Bush waged two catastrophic wars overseas, immolated an entire region of the world, and engineered a surveillance state that has proved durable through Democratic and Republican presidencies alike.
Torture, too. Don't forget torture, Ross.

I've never believed that "the fever will break." I think most Democrats (apart from Joe Biden and a large number of pundits) know better. The next Republican presidential candidate is quite likely to be worse than Trump. He or she could be Trump but with the competence to do what Trump couldn't. Barkan makes another point that now seems obvious: Because this person probably won't be an immature, appetite-driven ignoramus, he or she could lull the political establishment into believing that the fever has broken based on temperament alone.
Shed of President Trump, this party will be freed from his sheer incompetence, which squandered an opportunity, with majorities in the House and Senate, to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. The heir to Trump’s throne will not have his deficit of patience. The heir will lack his vulgarity, his absurd tangents, his addiction to social media, and his sparrow’s attention span. The heir will be Presidential, even relatively polite. The pundits who populate the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the New Yorker will breathe a momentary sigh of relief, because the odds of another sexual predator/reality TV star/WWE hall of famer leading the Republican Party are, statistically, not great. Trump’s heir will probably be a politician. This politician, through a commitment to a certain kind of decorum, will assuage the fears of the coastal class, who always hated Trump most because he could never playact, with solemn gravitas, the POTUS role as they conceived it. Bush may have the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands, but at least he likes to paint watercolors and not say yucky words.

This politician will also probably bring America closer to fascism than it’s ever come.
Some writers at these publications will look at the policies being advocated by the new GOP leader and recognize the ongoing danger. Others, however (cough David Brooks cough), will believe the worst has passed.

And yes, this person could stand for all the worst things about Trumpism while possessing a war lust Trump seems to lack.
Trump’s isolationist instincts have not reined in the military-industrial complex, but they have kept America out of the kind of murderous regime change wars Bolton and his cohort have sought in Iran, North Korea, and the rest of the Middle East. The post-Trump Republicans will not be so restrained. As long as they keep the flame of the culture wars, they can do whatever they please abroad, where Americans always pay less attention. Like any good fascist party, the Republicans will return to their warmongering roots.
Barkan writes about Tom Cotton as the possible next Trump, but the man he focuses on is Trump's vice president.
... Pence is in every sense the Republican future. A devout Christian and Tea Party warrior, Pence is the bridge to the evangelical coalition, which has stayed loyal to Trump and dragged his social views ever rightward.... Pence represents the best hope of evangelicals to make their gains permanent, to graduate from manipulating a slovenly puppet to having the real knight of their movement rise to the height of power in the world. Pence, a former governor, member of Congress, and talk show host, has been schooled in the tenets of unyielding fiscal conservatism — the slashing and burning of federal government — Trump never bothered to learn. Trump’s occasional feints to a more liberal self, like support for mild criminal justice reform or the withdrawal of troops overseas, would be stamped out in a Pence presidency. He would be the most reliable conservative yet.

Pence can placate the Fox News base of the party, his bona fides as a Trump loyalist unassailable. And he has already mastered the Republican donor class. If each mutation of a virus is stronger than the last, Pence is Trumpism metastasized, able to fuse the most retrograde conception of America imaginable with an appeal to the D.C.-New York political establishment....
But Pence has now spent years in servile silence, deferring to Trump rather than leading cultural crusades of his own. Hell, he even defers to Trump on Christian rabble-rousing -- it's Trump, not Pence, who postures as the warrior on behalf of bathrooms free of trans people and the mandatory use of "Merry Cristmas" rather than "Happy Holidays."

I don't think Pence remembers how to get the deplorables pumped up the way Trump does. Tom Cotton, Matt Gaetz, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, and Donald Trump Jr., to name a few, are nearly as good as Trump. Liz Cheney has skills. So do Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity, if they ever want to take a pay cut and run for president. I'm calling it now: Pence will not be the next GOP presidential nominee.

We have to hope that none of these people ever wins a general election -- but Trumpists will continue to win House and Senate races, as well as gubernatorial and state legislative races, for the foreseeable future. I'm 60 now, and I don't know if the fever will break in my lifetime.

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