by Jeffery Rendall
Many Americans see Election Day this year as their first opportunity to officially weigh-in on the merits of President Donald Trump’s initial two years in office.
Some can’t wait to (hopefully) send him reinforcements through backing good conservative Republican candidates; others are itching to vote for any available Democrat to “resist” and “send a message” of their displeasure with the chief executive.
Then there are those who are looking past November even now, peering into a foggy uncertain future. Do #NeverTrumpers see an opportunity ahead after the midterms?
In a piece titled “November 7, 2018”, #NeverTrumper Bill Kristol wrote at The Weekly Standard, “The focus on Trump’s base obscures this ambivalence among Republicans. Those reluctant or ambivalent Trump supporters are the key to the Republican future. They may stick with Trump going forward. Or they may not. Add to them the 15 or 20 percent of Republicans who don’t approve of Trump and you would have a majority of the party feeling queasy about a second term for the president.
“Much will depend, obviously, on how the Trump presidency is faring, what the real-world results look like, what Robert Mueller finds, who steps forward to challenge Trump, and many other variables. But they are . . . variables. And Trump’s fate is therefore more variable than might be suggested by snapshots showing him with wide approval among Republicans.
“In politics generally, snapshots are misleading. Political life is more theater than photography. We’re early in Act Two of the Trump term. And the inflection points tend to come about halfway through the drama. Situations change, fortunes rise and fall, characters make fateful choices, and new paths are charted.”
Beautiful prose, isn’t it? For those who may not have grasped the gist of Kristol’s piece from its curious title (November 7 is a Wednesday, the day after Election Day), the leading #NeverTrumper was referring to the beginning of the next presidential nomination cycle. In his article Kristol talks a little bit about what might happen – or not – in this year’s elections but mainly concentrates on planting seeds of doubt about Trump’s ability to retain the Republican Party’s favor heading into 2020.
In other words, Kristol’s is just more #NeverTrump delusions of grandeur in hoping there’s a remote possibility Trump might not be strong enough to be the party standard-bearer against the Democrat nominee in 2020.
While Kristol is correct it’s conceivable something could happen in the intervening months to throw doubt into Trump’s viability for the post-2018 political period, the likelihood of such an occurrence is minute at best and miniscule at worst. At that point Trump will have been in office for half a term and let’s just stipulate that every possible card in his enemies’ deck has already been played.
If all the tweets, Russian collusion allegations, Gold Star parents, Alicia Machados and Access Hollywood tapes in the world weren’t enough to defeat the as-yet non-tested Trump in 2016 what makes Trump’s adversaries realistically believe there will be some ultra-damaging secret revelation in the next two years to derail Trump ahead of the 2020 Republican National Convention?
That’s not to say Democrats and their Deep State enablers won’t keep trying – they’ve already broken into Trump’s private attorney’s office, brought up former Trump associates on minor criminal charges and dragged porn/stripper Stormy Daniels out of some sleazy venereal disease infested hole (and claimed she was paid to keep quiet ahead of the 2016 election) — these are all part of the greater effort to dent what appears to be solid Trump armor with his core supporters.
It won’t work; and Kristol’s end-around won’t succeed either.
Kristol optimistically surmises the roughly 20 percent (based on polls) of the electorate that only “somewhat approves” of Trump’s job performance could band together with the 15-20% of Republicans who still don’t favor Trump to consolidate behind a credible 2020 GOP challenger. To do so the “somewhat approve” group would need to completely turn sour towards Trump – and even then they’d run up against the majority of the party base (and to a large extent, the GOP machinery) in attempting to remove Trump from the throne.
Needless to say they’d also require a candidate to get behind. In trying to find the right person the #NeverTrumpers would encounter the same difficulties as two years ago when such a coup looked entirely more doable. To refresh, by late spring of 2016 Trump had all-but secured the GOP delegates he would need to officially nominate him at the Cleveland convention, yet there was still considerable organized opposition to his candidacy.
Remember at that time chief rival Ted Cruz had not endorsed him and practically swore it’d be a cold day in you-know-where before the prideful man from Texas would ever publicly back Trump. Meanwhile, perpetual loser/pest John Kasich (2016’s hanger-on-er) announced he wouldn’t support Trump until the candidate’s tone changed. Fat chance of that ever happening.
Various interest groups organized to deny Trump the nomination on the convention floor; several names were floated (Mitt Romney, David French, Ben Sasse, Tom Coburn, etc.) to act as a third-party “independent conservative” candidate to run in the general election with Trump and Hillary. Kristol himself practically got down on one knee and begged Romney and French to run.
None of it amounted to anything back then; so even in more favorable times the #NeverTrump forces couldn’t derail the Trump train. What makes anyone think it could happen in 2020?
Washington-area talk radio host Larry O’Connor floated the possibility Paul Ryan was stepping down as speaker in order to clear his schedule for a possible intra-party run against Trump in 2020. It’s an interesting hypothesis — and would make for good conversation while sipping a cool one with a stranger on a barstool — but Ryan’s offered no hints he’s actually considering such a stunt.
That leaves who…Mitt Romney? Nah, Mitt’s too preoccupied with trying to win a senate seat in his carpet bagging adopted home of Utah. David M. Drucker wrote at the Washington Examiner last weekend, “Mitt Romney on Saturday formally sets out on an improbable journey to Washington, as the one-time Republican presidential nominee takes the stage at the state party convention to offer his vision for national leadership in the U.S. Senate.
“Mindful to avoid the appearance that he is using a Senate bid to fulfill unquenched White House ambitions, Romney for weeks has concentrated on Utah issues — downplaying the national implications of a campaign framed from the outset by his past feuding with President Trump.
“But during an address inside the suburban Salt Lake City arena that served as the main hockey venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics that he successfully helped put together, Romney will flesh out his plans for using a perch on Capitol Hill to influence the future of the Republican Party and the country.”
At the convention Romney ended up finishing second and will now need to compete in the June primary against a guy few have ever heard of (state Rep. Michael Kennedy).
One tends to believe Romney when he vows he’s only running for the senate to represent Utah as opposed to establishing a foothold to challenge Trump in 2020 — but you never know. Mitt is legendary for changing his mind on a dime – and who’s to say he won’t do it again in a couple years? Any excuse would do… “I don’t think Trump’s tone is presidential.”
If an opening occurs (as Kristol suggests above) every Republican Trump opponent would likely look at Romney first. But if Romney didn’t feel such a challenge would work in the topsy-turvy political world that was 2016, what would change his mind now after Trump has stood behind the presidential seal for an entire term?
Again, President Trump must be the most thoroughly vetted political candidate the world has ever known. What rock hasn’t been looked under, what conversation hasn’t been listened to, what file hasn’t been stolen and what past relationship hasn’t been dissected and investigated (by the left, the Democrats and the Deep State) hoping to discover the proverbial magic bullet to blow the luster off the most improbable of all political success stories?
It’s easy to see why #NeverTrumpers (like Kristol and Romney) are keeping hope alive that Trump may not get a full two terms to Make America Great Again, but at some point they need to acknowledge the reality that it’s not happening for them.
There are even some signs the GOP senate leadership might finally be working to help Trump shore up his arguments ahead of 2020. Burgess Everett of Politico reported, “Mitch McConnell is making a last dash to stock the judiciary with conservatives this year as a hedge against the chance that Republicans lose the Senate in November…
“The move will show conservative voters that the Senate can still get things done even if Republicans lose the House and is part of McConnell’s years-long plan to reshape the courts after the presidency of Barack Obama shifted them to the left. Since becoming majority leader in 2015, the Kentucky Republican stymied Obama’s nominees for two years, including blocking a Supreme Court hopeful. And now he’s going into overdrive with Trump as president.
“Trump has already nominated 69 judges, but there are 149 total vacancies. GOP leaders say McConnell is intent on filling as many as he can this year, in part out of concern that Democrats take back the Senate and exact retribution on McConnell and Trump for changing the face of the courts.”
As would be expected coming from a left-leaning publication like Politico, Everett makes it sound like what McConnell is doing is a bad thing. McConnell doesn’t deserve credit for many things but his willingness to change rules to move judicial nominees does merit some praise.
Without completely rehashing the past, Democrats long ago started the stonewalling over judicial nominees, turning what was once considered a relatively non-controversial bipartisan process into an ideological circus every time a high-profile nominee is paraded before the senate. These days Democrats are retelling their same old lies (such as Trump is only nominating right-wing “extremists” hand-picked by The Federalist Society) to justify their blockading behavior on every nominee (even those who eventually pass nearly unanimously).
The American people must be informed of what’s going on in the senate and conservatives must highlight the issue ahead of this year’s midterms. Confirming judicial nominations is one of the GOP’s best selling points for the need to elect more Republican senators. Why isn’t more being done to emphasize this critical necessity?
Further, McConnell’s confirming judicial nominees is great but it may not alter the public’s impression Congress isn’t accomplishing anything this year. Rich Lowry wrote at National Review, “Republicans are resting on their laurels, when they don’t deserve any laurels. They are suffering from political exhaustion, when they haven’t truly exerted themselves. They are acting like they are lost in the wilderness, when they still occupy the commanding heights of American politics.
“The Democratic majority in the run-up to 1994 had this autumnal feel, but it had been in power for decades. The Republican majority, held at bay for six years under President Barack Obama, should be feeling its oats rather than stumbling toward the exits.
“This is, in large part, a result of the bizarre circumstances of the GOP sweep in 2016. The party showed every sign of being on the verge of defeat amid a major identity crisis. Its establishment was ineffectual, its old verities in doubt, and its voters in revolt. But instead of losing, the party won despite — or maybe because of — its identity crisis.”
Unfortunately for Donald Trump’s Republican critics the president can’t be blamed for Congress’s inability to push through conservative agenda items. Trump himself is far from perfect but he’s tried just about every means possible to get things moving. Instead of plotting a possible 2020 challenger, his GOP enemies should be putting more pressure on Capitol Hill.