Can Trump sink the GOP in 2024, too?

Or will GOP voters finally wise up?

Donald Trump, announcing his plans to run for POTUS in 2024

Last week the Republican Party performed pitifully in the midterm elections. The midterms should have been a cakewalk for the GOP, given the sad joke that is the Biden presidency. 

I remember the “red wave” of 1994, when the GOP took back both the House and Senate during Bill Clinton’s first term in office.

Now that was a real red wave. Bill Clinton, moreover, was a far more credible and successful POTUS than the doddering Joe Biden will ever be. 

But then, the GOP had much wiser leaders in 1994. 

In 1994 the GOP was not controlled by either a.) a buffoonish personality cult, or b.) single-issue windmill-tilters.

The Republican Party lost last week on two issues: Trump and abortion.

Let’s start with abortion. I’m no fan of it. But there will never be a consensus of voters in favor of outlawing all abortions, without exceptions for rape, incest, etc. 

Dobbs v. Jackson may have overturned Roe v. Wade. It did not change the way the majority of Americans have felt about abortion since the 1980s, which is: that abortion should be legal, with some reasonable restrictions. (The real disagreement, within the mainstream, usually comes down to the question of what constitutes “reasonable restrictions”.) 

Now on to Trump. My first memories of Donald Trump are from the 1980s, when he was a youngish billionaire real estate developer in New York. I frequently saw his visage on the covers of tabloid magazines like National Enquirer. He was something of a sex symbol in those days (yes, really), and a symbol of material success. Trump even made the cover of Playboy in 1990.

A younger, more glamorous Trump on the cover of Playboy in 1990

I never had anything against that old version of Donald Trump. On the contrary, I read The Art of the Deal about 20 years ago, and found many sections of the book to be quite instructive.

But I never was convinced that Donald Trump had the temperament needed to be a successful president. I voted for Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican primaries. (I prefer boring Republicans, because history shows me that boring Republicans actually win elections.)

Six years later, the empirical evidence tells us that the Republican Party’s Donald Trump experiment has failed. Donald Trump did not win a majority of the popular vote in either 2016 or 2020. In 2020, he lost the popular vote by 4.5 percentage points, against the weakest Democratic Party candidate in living memory. 

Last week, a slew of Trump-backed GOP candidates either lost, or barely squeaked by. Many, like Mehmet Oz and Tudor Dixon, never even got close to victory—against second-rate Democratic challengers.

That is not “winning”, in the Trump vernacular. That is being a party of “losers”.

It’s time to get a new plan. For 2024, the GOP has a long, deep bench of promising hopefuls: Tim Scott, Kristi Noem, Tom Cotton, and Nikki Haley, just to name a few.

And yes…also Ron DeSantis. But I caution you: the GOP does not need another anointed leader at the head of a personality cult. We’ve been there, done that. It doesn’t work.

No more red hats and junior high-level name calling, in other words. 

***

The decision to run again in 2024 is Trump’s. But Trump cannot make himself the GOP nominee. He needs the help of millions of GOP primary voters.

Nor is a Trump nomination in 2024 even the path of least resistance. Trump is no longer the sitting president. He is a former president who lost an election to Joe Biden, and alienated over half the country against the Republican Party. 

When the Republican nominee is announced in the summer of 2024, we’ll learn if the rank-and-file voters of the GOP are endlessly gullible, or capable of collectively learning from their mistakes, and adapting. 

Let’s hope we get the right answer. Because I, for one, don’t want to see another four years of Joe Biden.