GOP’s race to the White House all about Trump
"If you can't admire Joe Biden as a person," Republican Senator Lindsay Graham once said, "you've got a problem. You need to do some selfevaluation, because what's not to like? He's as good a man as God ever created."
That was back when Lindsay Graham had credibility. Those were also the days when he described Donald Trump as a "nut job," "a loser as a person" and "ill-suited to be president."
Graham was of course right about both Biden and Trump. But that was before his sad servility to Trump led him to assist Trump in trying to overthrow the 2020 Georgia election — assistance which may lead him to be indicted this August.
Graham is far from the only national Republican to continue to cower before Trump, too intimidated by Mar-a-Lago's Classified Document Collectorin-Chief to cross him and risk being insulted. As the 2024 election season gets underway, and the Republican case against Biden is that he has an arthritic spine, an occasional stutter and a son with a former addiction problem, the GOP nomination appears to be the indicted insurrectionist's to lose. His challengers have nether the courage nor the inclination to speak plainly about what a threat Trump is to our democracy and, indeed, to the country's ability to survive as we have known it.
After due consideration of the nature of Republican primary voters, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis settled on this for his campaign message: "You want crazy? I'll give you crazy." What he is selling is snarling attacks on marginalized Americans, like communities of color and the LGBTQ community, which want celebrate their identities and want others in this diverse nation we're privileged to live in to have the opportunity to do the same.
Then there are the snarling attacks on books, on learning, on science and on tolerance itself. It is a particular quality of vileness that many Americans thought we had put in our rear view mirror. But that isn't so, and it is the essence of DeSantis' campaign.
DeSantis' calculation that what Republicans want in their standardbearer is a crude, swaggering bully of the sort we all remember from schoolyards may be loathsome, but it isn't wrong. What is questionable is his thesis that Republicans would prefer a crude, swaggering bully who isn't a felon. The truth is that the Republican base is so off-base that Trump's very criminality is seen as a virtue by a sizable segment of Republicans.
And the Republican contenders for president know it. No candidate with a likelihood of obtaining the GOP nomination will be caught saying what would have been a no-brainer in times past: It really would be good if the president of the United States were not a criminal, all other things being equal.
Trump's less serious challengers are little better. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who showed real principle on Jan. 6, seems to have decided that once was enough. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who said that Trump was "everything a governor doesn't want in a president" before happily accepting a position in his cabinet, has ricocheted between distancing herself from Trump and prostrating herself before him. "I don't think he's going to be in the picture. I don't think he can. He's fallen so far," Haley said about The Boss after Jan. 6. But nine months later, she was kissing his ring. "He'd has the ability to get strong people elected," she gushed. "He has the ability to move the ball, and I hope he continues to do that." Senator Tim Scott, a recent entrant into the race, has blamed Democrats for inciting the violence on Jan. 6. "The one person I don't blame is President Trump," he said.
It's quite a crew the GOP has assembled. It is, however, one which is serving up what its voters want to see served up.