Now that Donald Trump has thrown his hat into the ring for the presidency in 2024, he’s getting his wish: once again, for better or for worse, he’s the center of attention.
Most people, even those who crave attention, wouldn’t, say, go to a party and pour the punch bowl over the host’s head for no good reason and be asked to leave amid a chorus of boos, just so they could be the most talked-about person there. But Trump might. He is arguably the living embodiment of “bad publicity is better than no publicity.”
Yet on November 15, just a week after unleashing an unprovoked barrage on newly reelected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, calling him an “average governor” who was down on his luck in a losing campaign in 2018 until Trump saved him, Trump announced his candidacy with appropriate restraint.
Trump said he wouldn’t call the media “fake news” because the atmosphere was too elegant, and he didn’t trot out the “Ron DeSanctimonious” moniker he recently hung on his former protégé. Trump also refrained from calling the president “Sleepy Joe,” though he did point out a few of Biden’s numerous gaffes, such as misstating the foreign country he was visiting.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee aptly predicted that if Trump stays on message, he’s unbeatable. But that’s a big if. That would require absolutely zero talk about the Democrats having stolen the last election. Even if that means directing his groupies once and for all to stop talking about boxes they saw being pulled out from under tables.
Many Republicans are disappointed about Trump’s running, even horrified. They’ve already adopted the narrative that Trump cost them the 2018, 2020, 2021 (the previous Georgia runoff) and now the 2022 elections, and they’re convinced they’d win far more easily with a standard bearer of Trumpism who isn’t Trump himself, namely, DeSantis.
But as I’ve often pointed out – and Bill O’Reilly, for one, agrees with me – DeSantis hasn’t been tested on the national stage. He is no less a national superstar in Florida than Rudy Giuliani was as mayor of New York City. But look what happened to Rudy in his 2000 presidential run. Also, DeSantis isn’t quite at Trump’s level of captivating crowds by the tens of thousands and attracting apolitical Americans who simply wouldn’t vote for anyone else. In short, DeSantis doesn’t have Trump’s cult following, which may not necessarily be a bad thing, because DeSantis can attract a wider swath of voters accordingly.
Moreover, DeSantis doesn’t have Trump’s baggage, and he’s too sharp and too clean to even be mentioned in a political scandal. Calling him homophobic for his education policy and misogynistic for his abortion stance is about all they can do, but that’s par for the course out of the left’s playbook.
What I’m wondering, though, is whether the Democrats and their mainstream media messenger boys are not really haplessly histrionic, but rather sophisticatedly crafty. Here’s what I mean: no sooner than did Trump announce he’s running did media outlets such as the New York Times, led by Michael Bender and Maggie Haberman – each of whom has written a lengthy tome on Trump’s presidency, placing him under a particularly unsympathetic microscope – opened their article with the alarming clarion call that Trump’s “historically divisive presidency shook the pillars of the country’s democratic institutions.” This was a “news update,” mind you.
But there’s a distinct difference between the Times and the Wall Street Journal, neither of which wants Trump anywhere near the White House ever again. The Journal’s message can be summed up as: “we want Republicans to win and you’re blowing their chances,” whereas the Times implores: “if you ever win again, that’s the end of democracy.” The Journal recently pointed out it’s a foolish overreaction to think our democracy is so fragile that Trump and his minions could overthrow it, even if they actually wanted to, but I think the Times understands that too.
You see, nothing helps Trump more than disproportionate criticism, and they want to help him in the short run. Like millions of Trump’s more reasonable supporters, I was deeply disappointed and highly critical of his petulant behavior between Election Day 2020 and Inauguration Day 2021. Yet I regained my sympathy for him when the Nancy Pelosi-led House impeached him for “inciting an insurrection.” I won’t take up space reiterating my argument that I found his indifference highly distasteful and unpresidential, but the man did not mastermind a violent coup d’état, period.
I was also disappointed with Trump’s incessant post-election harping about widespread fraud, but once again came to his defense when the FBI strongarmed him with the Mar-a-Lago raid, Banana Republic style, while his haters pretended they’d really have cared if it was a different president who sloppily packed some random “classified papers” in with the golf clubs.
Similarly, nothing brings those who’ve tried to quit the Trump habit back into the fold faster than an over-the-top scathing rebuke by the Times and its ilk. Lukewarm MAGAns will decry: “If you hate Trump, that leads us back to supporting him.”
And that very well may be part of the plan. Democrats & Co. know that Trump is their best bet to attracting record numbers to vote against him. The thought of Biden, Kamala Harris, or Gavin Newsom beating DeSantis is laughable. Beating Trump? Quite possible. The Dems worked hard in Pennsylvania to hand Doug Mastriano the GOP gubernatorial bid, knowing they’d trounce him in the general election. They see Trump as Mastriano on the national level, meaning their supposed ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ is really ‘Trump Designation Strategy’.
Or maybe they really are the irrational Nervous Nellies they appear to be.