Thursday, June 24, 2021


As the 2008 presidential campaign was getting underway, Very Smart People predicted that some Republican (other than Ron Paul) would break from the pack and turn against George W. Bush's Iraq War. We were told that this would be a shrewd, savvy way for the apostate to distinguish himself from the rest of the field, and it would align the apostate with public opinion, which had turned sharply negative on the war.

I said it would never happen. It never happened.

It was obvious that it would never happen. Supporting the Iraq War was a key part of Republican tribal solidarity. People on the left had denounced the war for years; no one put it this way back then, but continuing to back the war was a way of owning the libs. (And then the dead-ender candidate the Republicans ultimately chose, John McCain, suffered a brutal defeat, while Democrats won large majorities in Congress.)

It's not clear whether backing Donald Trump is as suicidal for Republicans as backing the Iraq War was in 2008. But if we know anything about Republicans, we know that their cardinal rule is "No enemies on the right" -- which means that what Tom LoBianco, a Pence biographer, writes at Insider is farfetched (paywalled article, but readable here):
ANALYSIS: Pence is positioned to counterattack Trump

Thursday night might finally be the night former Vice President Mike Pence — a man with his own 2024 presidential ambitions — starts striking back at Donald Trump, who almost got him killed six months ago.

... hecklers at a recent Christian conservative conference in Florida may have provided just the impetus for Pence to finally break from Trump, after five years of stunning obedience.

The jeers shook Pence and his team to the core, said one Republican close to Pence. "They got stung last week when the crowd booed him. It showed the difficulty of this path." ...

Pence's speech on Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Library is about the future of the Republican Party and aptly named, "A Time for Choosing".

And Pence choosing this moment to stand apart from Trump, who faces significant legal peril and a hint of softening popularity among hardcore conservatives, may mark his best shot to unofficially launch his own quest for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination....

It's clear the hardcore Trump loyalists in the Republican base are unlikely to ever support Pence so long as Trump considers running in 2024.

But it's also clear that this group is steadily shrinking.
It's conventional wisdom that Trump's hardcore base is shrinking, but as long as support for Trump is the ultimate middle finger to the libs, and as long as no one stokes right-wing rage more effectively than he does, making a clean break with him will mean the end of any Republican's political career. I continue to believe that any GOP pol who makes such a break will be a pariah at least until 2024, even if Trump is in prison by then.

Maybe LoBianco knows something I don't. Maybe Pence really is planning to repudiate Trump. But it's hard to imagine that sort of backbone from a congenital bootlicker like Pence. (The famous e.e. cummings poem "a politician is an arse upon / which everyone has sat except a man" seems as if it was written for him.)

LoBianco isn't certain this will happen.
Some Republicans familiar with both Trump and Pence are skeptical he will ever fully break from Trump....

Tonight, expect Pence to play some of his greatest hits, touting work on Coronavirus vaccines (despite deep opposition to getting vaccinated from the Republican base), his work moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and curbing protections for the LGBTQ+ community.

... wait to learn if Pence makes the riskiest but most politically necessary move of all: coming at Trump, the still-reigning king of the Republican Party.
It's possible that Pence will make vague noises about how Republicans shouldn't engage in name-calling or undermining democracy, without ever having the spine to mention Trump by name. But if I'm right and Pence doesn't reject Trump, journalists will still tell you that some A-list presidential hopeful will break with Trump eventually. And it will never happen.


UPDATE: He delivered the speech and tried to have it both ways.
In a speech, former Vice President Mike Pence went the furthest he has gone yet in distancing himself from Donald Trump and the Capitol riot. But he still praised the former president and his agenda....

“I will always be proud that we did our part on that tragic day to reconvene the Congress and fulfilled our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” Mr. Pence said, noting that as vice president, he had no constitutional authority to reject or return electoral votes submitted to Congress by the states. “The truth is, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
he spent much of his speech reciting what he said were Mr. Trump’s accomplishments on many issues, including free trade, border security and relations with China. “President Trump changed the national consensus on China,” he said.

Mr. Pence also compared Mr. Trump to former President Ronald Reagan.

“He too disrupted the status quo,” Mr. Pence said. “He challenged the establishment. He invigorated our movement and set a bold new course for America.”
Comparing Trump to Reagan at the Reagan Library? That's not how you break with Trump.

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