Pardon the cliché, but three years in American politics is an eternity. Biden’s sinking approval ratings would be direr for his political future if the next presidential election would be held this November, instead of in 2024. Nonetheless, the Beltway is buzzing about Biden’s underwater poll numbers and how that’s bound to help Republicans in next year’s midterm elections.
In a recent Washington Times article, Jennifer Harper quotes Inside Elections publisher Nathan Gonzales as saying that “if voters don’t like the job the president is doing, they can’t vote against him in a midterm because he’s not on the ballot. So they take out their frustration on candidates from his party.” That astute observation, coupled with Congress’ traditionally low approval ratings, does not bode well for Democrats next year. But what about the White House in 2024?
Much to the chagrin of many Republicans I know – and even more I don’t know – Trumpism is quickly knocking the establishmentarian Republican Party of the Cheneys, Romneys, and McConnells of the world into oblivion. Far more Republicans, though, are delighted about that.
Many with hopeless cases of Trump Derangement Syndrome are quick to quip that “there is no such things as Trumpism because Trump doesn’t have a political philosophy. He’s so out of his depth, and everything he does is for glory and grandeur, and also to leverage his political power to further line his pockets.” Without providing a counterargument to that wildly speculative suggestion, as it would create a distraction from my main point, I say to them: whether or not Trump actually believes what he says doesn’t matter very much. It’s all about the results his words and actions will achieve.
Consider this analogy: a young boy from a wealthy family is kidnapped. The family goes to great lengths to get him back, including offering one million dollars to anyone who can bring him home safe and sound. One man – let’s call him Robert – learns about all of this and devises a plan to trap the kidnappers. In doing so, he alerts the police. They nab the kidnappers and Robert takes the boy home. Instantly, Robert becomes a national hero, conducting interview after interview, relaying that “my only concern was to bring that boy back to safety, to see the smile on his parents’ faces, and to know that I helped bring evil wrongdoers to justice.” Privately, though, he tells friends: “I really don’t give a damn about the family or the kidnappers, I just wanted the reward money.” The point is that the boy’s family is ecstatic to have him back home again; the rescuer’s motives are almost irrelevant.
Trumpism, then, whatever the catalyst, is fast emerging as the GOP’s dominant ideology. It’s a mix of America First nationalism, law and order populism, and it stands on four pillars, each railing against its particular nemesis: illegal entry and stay, media malpractice, political overcorrectness, and America being taken advantage of politically and economically. If business takes a hit because we crack down on border crossings and impose tariffs on other countries, well then business will have to take a hit, say the Trumpians; tell that to the Wall Street fatcats who worship the twin gods of stability and profit. If our longtime Western allies question America’s loyalty to them, well maybe they have it coming, the party’s most vocal wing says, to the horror of think tank stalwarts.
Republican voters are remarkably united around Trump in a way that no former president of recent memory who lost an election has been. Granted, two-term winners like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama are still revered by their respective parties, but practically no one thought of Bob Dole, John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton as party leaders after their defeats.
Ironically, though, the standard bearer of Trumpism, Trump himself, may not be the best spokesperson to advance the cause. Politics is a truly vicious jungle. If Mother Theresa was a Democrat and Mahatma Gandhi was a Republican running against each other in 2024, you can be sure the opposing party would bombard impressionable voters with propaganda that the other was an “existential threat to the survival of our nation.” Therefore, you can only imagine that in such a relentlessly poisonous climate, a candidate like Trump – who is predisposed to attracting controversy – will almost surely never reach, say, a 60 percent approval rating, or even 55, and that’s what’s important.
The Democrats have become such a caricature of themselves that even liberals are running for the exits. As Bill Maher implores week after week: “if what you do sounds like an Onion headline, you need to stop doing it.” He cites numerous examples, including the Seattle City Council’s proposal to decriminalize crime in certain instances, such as stealing if you’re poor, Ivy League institutions holding segregated graduation ceremonies, and the NFL opening its games with two “national anthems,” the second being Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Add to that growing skepticism about President Biden’s ability to lead the nation. Some say he’s lost it, others say he never had it. Some think he’s frail, others think he’s senile. All of this places Democrats in peril in a way that no party has experienced since the Republicans after Watergate and the Democrats after Jimmy Carter’s stagflation misery index and Iran Hostage Crisis. The election following Watergate ushered in Carter, who barely won and was trounced four years later, by Reagan, who won two landslide victories. Carter’s presidency – known for decency and compassion – was otherwise written off as unremarkable at best, a colossal failure at worst. Reagan’s was considered by presidential historians of all political stripes as one of the best ever. Landslides matter, and Trump has too many enemies to win one, should he run again.
Sure, there’ s a good chance Trump can win in 2024, especially if voters can’t cast a ballot by smartphone, and I’d love to have him back. But it’s not just about one election. It’s about ridding America of the scourge of ‘wokism’. It’s going to take another Ronald Reagan to do that, and I don’t think Trump’s the guy. Problem is, I’m not sure who is.