Let me say up front that I think the country owes a big debt of gratitude to Trump. Not only did he spare us the hell-scape of a Hillary presidency, he governed much more conservatively than anyone since Reagan. You all know the record – 3 originalist SC justices, cutting taxes and regulations, booming economy, energy independence, a less-porous border, no foreign wars, etc.
I was very skeptical of Trump in ’16 and voted for him with trepidation. But his performance won me over, and I voted for him enthusiastically in ’20. I’m not sure that election was “stolen” from him, but I’m certain that it was rigged, in many ways (the MSM tying him up in hoax scandals, suppressing the Hunter laptop, holding back news of the vaccine until after the election, etc. and etc.), and I completely sympathize with his justified outrage at the way he was treated.
I share that outrage.
Having said all that, Trump has significant flaws (as do we all), chief among them a huge ego and impulsive lack of discipline.
In general, I don’t hold the former against him too much, because I don’t think that anyone without a big ego ever becomes president. Obama, for example, literally said that his election would begin the healing of the earth and the receding of the tides, and that he thought he knew more about any subject than his advisors/specialists. He also built fake Greek temple columns for one of his rallies, and he bragged about having a pen and a phone, so he didn’t need to deal with trivialities like the democratic process. Etc. and etc.
Ego can sometimes motivate one to achieve worthy goals, as it often did for Trump at his best. If he had enough common sense to know how a strong economy works, and thus governed conservatively, should I really care whether he helped the economy get stronger because he wanted people to succeed, or because he wanted a glowing name in history for presiding over a strong economy?
Sure, it would be nice if a leader really behaved out of selfless devotion to country. But since that’s pretty rare, I’ll take the one who does the right thing, even if he’s doing it for mixed reasons.
I look at most human endeavors the same way. Great writers, artists and musicians produce great books, art and music for a variety of reasons: to get women, to get rich, to get famous, to share a gift with the world. As long as we get great books, art and music from them, I don’t particularly care whether their motives were high, low or mixed. (Spoiler alert: 99% of humans’ motivations for working hard at anything are mixed.)
But a huge ego can be devastatingly counter-productive when combined with lack of discipline. Trump bashing Dems and critics when they had no legitimate point was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold; his bashing Rosie O’Donnell for being fat, or McCain for having been captured was counter-productive and small.
Many times – and much more since the 2020 election – Trump’s ego has led him to hurt his party (and, I think, the country) in the service of personal grudges.
Biden was able to do much of the terrible damage he’s done because we lost both GA senate seats in the 2020 run-offs. We lost both contests – in a reddish state – by very small margins, and Trump’s focus on how he’d been screwed rather than on getting out the GOP vote did not help.
Kemp in GA and DeWine in OH were the strongest gov candidates in their primaries – and both won on Tuesday – but Trump held grudges against both and did what he could to sabotage them. He put Dr. Oz over the top in the PA primary because of personal feelings, rather than any evidence of electability.
Worst of all, IMHO, have been his recent attacks on DeSantis. To give any GOP governor a caustic nickname at a rally three days before the midterms was purely selfish. (Why would he even be talking about GOP polling about primaries for the 2024 race when he’s supposed to be rallying the base to kick some Dem butt on 11/8?) To continue taking other shots at RDS this week – along with Youngkin! — can be explained only by Trump’s personal insecurities.
One of the virtues of Trump’s fighting style was that rarely started a fight, but he was a quick counter-puncher. But RDS hasn’t attacked Trump at all, and Trump is lashing out anyway, and in a way that cannot help the conservative cause.
This pains me to write, because again, I think Trump accomplished a lot in his presidency. And after the weak-tea invertebrates who wouldn’t even take their own side in a fight whom the GOP had been running – Romney, McCain, even W, though I admire a lot about him – Trump demonstrated the value of joining the fight and punching back.
But you want to punch your opponent — not the referee, the ring girl, and your own corner people!
DeSantis has a solid conservative record that combines the best aspects of Trump’s guts and combativeness, without the negative baggage. DeSantis has picked the right battles – over covid lockdowns and mask mandates, illegals being shipped into Florida, CRT and wokeness in schools, etc. – and he’s waged them as a disciplined, happy warrior.
I know that whoever we nominate, the Dems and MSM (but I repeat myself) are going to demonize and smear him, and they’ll do their best to give RDS the Trump treatment, too. But I trust DeSantis more than Trump to withstand those attacks and strike back judiciously.
Finally, from a Machiavellian, practical viewpoint, I’ve got to look at the cost-benefit of both candidates.
Trump’s negatives are baked in; he’s got what CO called “a titanium ceiling.” Whether we like it or not, around 40-45% of the American electorate hate his guts, and will never vote for him, no matter who he is running against.
Even if he kept all of his earlier support – and after the last week, and his bad-optics attacks on the best-performing GOP candidates on 11/8, he won’t – his path to winning in 2024 is not promising.
He has already run against two of the weakest opponents since the fall of Rome. He managed to thread the needle and narrowly defeat the repugnant and unpopular Cankles McPantsuit in 2016, and even in the best-case scenario he fought to a draw (or possibly a super-narrow victory, absent fraud) with the demented, deceased Brandon, the second-most unpopular nominee in history in 2020.
For what it’s worth – and remember, I’m the guy with the defective wizard hat and the clouded-over crystal brain – everything I’ve seen of DeSantis tells me that he’s got a lot more upside than downside.
Though it would pain me to lose a fantastic governor, I’m hoping he runs in 2024.