The GOP is running out of crazy.
Those who haven’t carved out their niche will get more desperate.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote about how ridiculous the Democrats looked on the primary debate stage. At the time, there must have been nearly twenty candidates still in the race. It became a running jokes on Dem-supporting media that no one could name them all, even after they’d spent three hours watching them on T.V. the night before.
“Having several candidates of the same party kicking lumps out of each other, airing the party’s dirty laundry on national TV just months before a general election — what could be better? Hey, let’s get a piece of that, the Democrats said”
Everyone now knows how the story ended. The most well known candidates lasted until the end, namely Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, whose name I.D. was already extremely high in April 2019. Incidentally, one of the first pieces I published here predicted that the protracted primary process would simply result in Joe Biden winning. Admittedly, that was one of the very few predictions I did get right.
The lesser-known candidates were well aware of their predicament. They only had a limited amount of time to increase their standing in a very crowded field. To gain attention, they had to think outside of the box, but the further outside of the box they went, the less credible they appeared. Despite representing alternative ‘lanes’ of the party, the likes of Sanders and Biden had a firm grip. Lesser-known candidates were largely frozen out. They couldn’t out-flank Sanders on the left, nor Biden on the right.
In a much darker, more insidiously way,Donald Trump’s grip also forces his party colleagues into a similar predicament. The path they have to negotiate, though, is less an ideological one, and more one of out right crazy. While the positions of Sanders and Biden were fairly easy to predict, who knows what Trump will pretend to believe on any given issue on any given day? If a 2024 hopeful gets that judgement wrong, they’re out. Game over.
In essence, anyone who doesn’t throw their total support behind Trump will become an un-funded RINO, but simultaneously, by throwing total support behind the former-man, they themselves don’t stand a chance of distinguishing themselves from the field.
The situation is even more treacherous because, now Trump is no longer in office, he isn’t prohibited by electoral consequences that calibrate him somewhat, although not too much. Now, not only does Trump senior get free roam, but there is also the likes of Don Jr and Sean Hannity, operating an open-border policy into Crazy town.
There are, therefore, three options for Republican hopefuls. Firstly, they could try and convey just how ridiculous it would be for the GOP to elect a Trump/Trump-type figure. The former guy lost the popular vote twice, was impeached, twice, lost former strong-holds like Arizona and Georgia, and cost the party both the House and the Senate, all in one single term. It would be very reasonable to suggest that maybe the party should change direction. It might be reasonable, but it is also unlikely.
Secondly, they can toe the line for a little longer until they see the chance for a well-timed bolt from the pack. Stay quiet, stay loyal. Perhaps use the 2022 mid-terms as a catalyst. Hypothetically, lets say the Democrats maintain both the House and the Senate, Joe Biden is still riding high after a successful vaccination programme and multiple COVID relief bills. A Republican hopeful could view that as an opportunity to break from the Trump mould there. The GOP clearly need to move to a post-Trump strategy, the elections are evidence of that, they could argue. Equally reasonable, equally unlikely.
The third and final response is, I argue, the most likely. 2024 hopefuls will simply try and out crazy Trump. A recent Politico piece on Rick Scott illustrates this well. His impressive winning ratio in Florida elections means little, precisely because “he’s not charging the hill on anything or pushing the conversation like others are”. The message being: if you want the support to win the nomination, recent elections success isn’t good enough. You have to go crazy on at least one issue. The better news for these hopefuls is there appears to be no area of society that the party does not want to wage a culture war on, so there are plenty of niches available. Mr Potato head, Dr Seuss, or more damagingly, trans-rights in sports are just three areas other hopefuls have ‘charged the hill on’.
As GOP candidates seeks to grapple with the aforementioned problem that faced a busy Democrat field in 2016, they will become increasingly desperate to stand-out. The most likely way that this could happen is by attempting to out-crazy Trump.