I saw a surprising amount of annoyance about this latest “stop the steal” candygram on Republican Twitter this afternoon. Usually Captain Queeg’s thoughts about the missing strawberries are received with cheers.
Here’s the difference between Trump and most of his base, a difference he once seemed to recognize but has since forgotten. As much as righties adore him and treat him like a cult leader, their prime political motive is their fear and loathing of the left. Trump sensed that in 2016 and presented himself successfully as the lesser of two evils vis-a-vis the Clintons. The dreadful prospect of Hillary filling Antonin Scalia’s vacant Supreme Court seat led a meaningful number of Republicans to hold their noses after the “Access Hollywood” tape and vote for him anyway because, deep down, they believe having any Republican as president is better than having a Democrat.
Especially if that Democrat is Hillary Clinton.
Trump doesn’t care about the left holding power, though. (He’s a former Democratic donor, right?) He doesn’t care about the right either. What he cares about is his own self-aggrandizement, which is why he continues to obsessively raise doubt about how he came to lose a national popularity contest nearly a full year removed from the vote. Still, there’s usually no tension between Trump’s personal agenda with his “rigged election” propaganda and the right’s political agenda of undermining Democrats since casting Joe Biden as illegitimate serves each of their respective purposes.
But when Trump starts hinting that Republicans should stay home in the next two elections to protest the wound to his ego, knowing that that would mean keeping Democrats in power for years to come, then we have a conflict.
If Republicans were offered a deal in which they got to take back Congress next fall and then the White House in 2024 in exchange for dropping the “stop the steal” garbage, most of them would take it. Not the hardcore MAGA true believers who are lost in a fantasy about Trumpist autocracy, but everyone else would. You want to stop Biden and the House progressives before they spend another $10 trillion or whatever, right? Then do the deal.
Trump wouldn’t take that deal. Nothing is more important to him than avenging the terrible blow to his narcissism by “proving” that Biden cheated. Let the heavens fall, let the Democrats reign for a hundred years, but let him be vindicated in believing that the people would never actually prefer someone else to him. Never mind that he couldn’t top even a figure as widely loathed as Hillary Clinton in the national popular vote. And had to invent a lie to cope with that reality too.
He doesn’t care. And he’s proved it in Georgia. His disinformation campaign about the election encouraged enough Georgia Republicans to stay home in disgust at their state’s “rigged” electoral system in the January runoffs to tip the Senate to Democrats. That’ll end up costing America an extra $5 trillion in spending this year.
I imagine that, for Trump, seeing Democrats win due to depressed Republican turnout is enjoyable. It strokes his ego in a number of ways. The voters who stay home to protest “rigged elections” are signaling that they’re loyal to him, not to the GOP. The fact that they may comprise the margin between GOP victory and defeat lets him tell himself that he holds the party’s fate in his hands. And as a matter of pure spite, I’m sure he’d relish punishing Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment for not aggressively pursuing his “stop the steal” agenda by seeing them lose otherwise winnable seats. No doubt Trump is privately glad that Republicans lost the Georgia Senate elections and sees McConnell’s relegation to the Senate minority as just deserts.
You would think a party would wants its next nominee to be someone fully committed to Republican victory and Democratic defeat, but no. Not yet, anyway:
A majority of GOPers definitely want him on the ballot and a supermajority “probably” want him on it. In a hypothetical primary, Morning Consult finds Trump leading with 47 percent to Mike Pence’s 13 percent and Ron DeSantis’s 12. There’s a glimmer of hope in that, as he didn’t reach a clear majority. But when you factor in that Donald Trump Jr also got six percent in the same poll, which was as much as Nikki Haley and Ted Cruz combined, that glimmer begins to fade.
Whatever, though. Republicans deserve it. He warned everyone who he was at his rallies and righties chose to let him bite them anyway. I will say, though, that it’s funny to see him discouraging Republicans from voting in *2024* since he’s likely to be at the top of the ballot that year. What a dilemma for MAGA fans. Do you turn out and try to elect him president? Or do you stay home in protest that our rigged system supposedly won’t allow him to be elected president even though he was already elected once before?