The conventional political wisdom seems to have gelled as far as the 2024 presidential elections are concerned. It says that serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) will win the Republican nomination but lose to Joe Biden in the general election. If by some chance SSAT drops out of the race (and the only thing that I think of that might cause that to happen is if he dies or is otherwise incapacitated), then whoever takes the nomination has a better chance of defeating Biden. The problem is that if one looks at past elections, conventional wisdom this far out from the election has proven to be extremely unreliable as a predictor of winners and losers.
But what the election is going to be about in terms of policies is a little easier to predict. SSAT seems to be running on a platform of personal grievance, that he is an utterly wronged man who deserves to be elected as president so that he can wreak vengeance on everyone who has worked against him, which by now is a pretty comprehensive list of federal and state governments, the justice system, and those within and outside the Republican party who have had the temerity to criticize him.
His recent speeches following his arraignment on federal charges painted a very dark picture of the state of the country and warned that if he loses in 2024, the country will be destroyed and taken over by evil forces. He paints himself as a messiah, the only one who can save the country. His competitors for the nomination have had no choice but to echo his alarmism but distinguish themselves from him by claiming that he is going to lose and that they have a better chance of winning and saving the country.
The 2024 G.O.P. primary is shaping up as a veritable stew of hatreds, with the candidates raising alarms about everyone from scary trans activists to marauding migrants and “woke” radical-left Communists. In 2016, during Trump’s campaign, he promoted a “Muslim ban” to protect L.G.B.T.Q.+ Americans from “a hateful foreign ideology”; this time, as the political writer Dave Weigel recently noted, Republicans are courting Muslim voters by promising to protect them against threatening L.G.B.T.Q.+ ideologues. The point is to have an enemy—or many enemies—whoever they are.
For Trump, the fear-and-anger script has never varied, even if the specific objects of his demonization come and go as quickly as the chyrons on Fox News. Win or lose, the guy who launched his Presidential campaign in 2015 by warning of evil Mexican rapists still has one playbook. During a speech at his country club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Tuesday night, shortly after his arrest and arraignment on federal criminal charges stemming from his possession of a large trove of classified documents, Trump offered a parade of by-now-familiar horribles: people “allowed to pour through our open borders”; “rigged” elections; raging inflation; interest rates out of control and taxes spiralling upward; murderers “allowed to roam the streets of our Democrat-run cities unchecked”; the “persecution of Christians, pro-life activists, parents attending school board meetings, and even future Republican candidates”; the “fake news” and the “leaking sieve in Washington”; and, of course, “the corrupt Biden Administration” and its allied “band of closet thugs, misfits, and Marxists” who “tried to destroy American Democracy,” or at least turn it into “Venezuela on steroids.”
Trump’s 2024 campaign is turning out to be a master class in fear, his own and that which he seeks to inspire in his supporters. His doom-casting is designed not only to provoke their emotions but to lead his audience to the inescapable conclusion that radical action is required. “Republicans all, you must finally get tough,” Trump said on Tuesday night. “You’ve got to get tough and you’ve got to show them, when you arrest your leading political opponent, we no longer have a democracy.” He concluded with a promise to “obliterate” his enemies in the “deep state,” and to appoint a “real” special prosecutor to go after Biden, “the most corrupt President in the history of the United States of America,” and Biden’s family, too—the very politicization of justice of which Trump claims to be a victim.
The speech ended on the dictatorial note that has become the chilling, messianic signature of his 2024 campaign: “I am the only one that can save this nation,” he said.
Ron DeSantis has seized on the idea SSAT can only serve for four years and thus will not be able to save the country, while he will have eight years to carry out that act of salvation. Of course SSAT has ridiculed that as a sign of DeSantis’s weakness, saying that he can solve all the problems in a few months.
There is also a curious bit of infighting going on in response to the Republican National Committee’s requirement that candidates must pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee if they are to be invited to the debates. This is pointless since SSAT has no scruples about ignoring any promise or pledge if its suits him and his fanatical supporters will not care. Meanwhile some other candidates who have staked out anti-SSAT stances like Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson are also balking.
GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie made it clear Sunday he didn’t think much of the requirement that the 2024 GOP contenders agree to support the eventual party nominee in order to appear on the debate stage.
“I’m going to take the pledge just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016,” the former New Jersey governor said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“As you’ll remember, Reince Priebus had to go up to Trump Tower to get him to sign it, to ask him to do so,” Christie added. “He did and then we went to a subsequent debate and we were all asked if we would reaffirm our support of whoever the nominee was going to be by raising our hand. There were 10 of us on the stage, nine of us raised our hands. The one who didn’t was Donald Trump.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another 2024 GOP candidate, recently challenged the notion of a loyalty pledge, saying he wouldn’t support former President Donald Trump, who’s hoping to become president again, if he were a convicted felon. “We need to concentrate on supporting the principles of the party, which is the rule of law,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
While the GOP is running on an ‘anti-woke’ (what that specifically means is often left to the listener) and anti-LGBTQ+ (and specifically anti-trans) platform, in contrast Biden seems to have chosen to embrace the LGBTQ+ community.
Republicans’ main goals have always been to give tax cuts to the rich, to cut benefits and services to those less well off, and to give corporations more freedom to be rapacious in their exploitation of workers, consumers, and the environment, but those policies are too unpopular to be stated explicitly. So they are hidden behind a screen of hot-button emotions GRAGGS rhetoric (guns, race, abortion, gays, god, sex). In contrast, in his first campaign rally in Philadelphia, Biden touted his support for the working class and unions. He also pointed to his efforts to rebuild American infrastructure.
To a roaring crowd, who repeatedly cheered “four more years,” the president touted several accomplishments, including the bipartisan infrastructure law, a coronavirus relief package, a bipartisan semiconductor chip manufacturing law and the recently negotiated debt ceiling deal that helped avert a US default.
Biden’s campaign has leaned into his economic record, including releasing a 60-second ad titled “Backbone” last month. The spot struck a populist tone, mixing audio of the president speaking about “investing in places and people that have been forgotten” and a narrator ticking through the administration’s work to boost infrastructure and manufacturing in the country.
It is a long time until November 2024. One thing that you can be sure of is that the GOP will seize on many hot-button issues from now until then that they think they can use to inflame voters’ passions. We can expect some anti-immigration hysteria, some emergent foreign policy issues, as well as the recycling of GRAGGS issues wrapped around some specific new topics.