Making the click-through worthwhile: Why no wise and ambitious Republican would bother with a primary challenge against Trump in 2020, former female campaign staffers of Bernie Sanders go public with claims of a “toxic environment,” why there’s no sign of progress in the government shutdown, and a little reminder about who your humble correspondent is.
What’s the Incentive for a Primary Challenge to Trump in 2020?
If you’re a Republican official with presidential ambitions, why would you run a primary challenge against Donald Trump in 2020?
Yesterday, senator-elect (or perhaps Utah senator, by the time you read this) Mitt Romney denied that he has any interest in running for president again.
President Trump’s job approval among Republicans is 89 percent, and it’s been in the 80s to low 90s for the entirety of the past year, according to Gallup. None of the missteps of the past two years — the “some very fine people on both sides” statement after Charlottesville; sudden (and quickly reversed) public embrace of gun control; “s***hole countries”; the Stormy Daniels revelations; separating children from their parents at the border; criticism of generals Stanley McCrystal, James Mattis, William McRaven; criticism of allied leaders while praising Vladimir Putin; the shift from a “big beautiful wall” to an 18-foot security fence; the Republicans losing 40 seats in the House of Representatives . . . none of that had any major impact on Republican approval of Trump.
Yesterday’s comments that the Soviet Union was right to invade Afghanistan will probably have no effect either.
How likely is it that Trump will do something in the next two years that spurs Republicans to no longer support him? The vast majority of the Republican party’s voters have tied themselves to Trump the way Ulysses tied himself to the mast — if he rises, they rise, and if he’s going down, they’ll go down with him.
As our J.J. McCullough observed:
A November Quinnipiac University poll found the vast majority of Republicans have enormous, across-the-board confidence in everything about Trump: 82 percent said he had good leadership skills, 77 percent said he was honest, 92 percent said he was intelligent, and 80 percent agreed he was someone who “shares your values.” Trump was given astronomically high approval on the management of basically every issue as well, including 86 percent approval for his handling of “immigration issues.”
Someone like John Kasich could run a protest campaign, but the man just vetoed a bill to restrict abortions, he’s effectively renounced his past NRA endorsements, he fought the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare . . . where’s the appeal to Republicans? He would get a lot of mainstream-media praise and very few primary votes.
If Trump gets a primary challenger from the left, the president will probably squash him in the contests — but he’ll also have a convenient (if not terribly plausible) scapegoat for any 2020 defeat. You can already see the groundwork being laid out:
Win or lose, any primary challenge would almost certainly hurt Trump’s re-election, warned RNC member Jevon Williams of the Virgin Islands.
“Messrs. Romney, Flake, and Kasich will continue chasing their fantasy of being president, even if that means destroying our party and denying President Trump re-election,” Williams wrote to fellow RNC members in a message obtained by The Associated Press. “Look, the political history is clear. No Republican president opposed for re-nomination has ever won re-election.”
Some Trump supporters may secretly prefer having someone in the Republican party to blame for a 2020 defeat. It would guarantee a market for a “We would have won if the Establishment hadn’t stabbed us in the back” narrative for the next four years.
If you’re a Republican with genuine appeal to the party — let’s take Nikki Haley as a good example — if you choose to run in 2024, the worst-case scenario in the nomination fight is that you’re running against Vice President Pence. That would be tough, but it would be easier than running against Trump in a primary now, and who knows, maybe in 2020 the Republican primary electorate won’t be all that enthused about Pence. American history is littered with vice presidents who did not succeed as presidential candidates: Al Gore, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, and initially, Richard Nixon.
Yes, in 2024, an ambitious Republican might be taking on an incumbent Democratic president, and there’s been a good run for incumbents in the past few decades: Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama. But if there’s a Democratic president in 2024, that means Trump lost his bid for reelection, and the streak is broken. And what are the odds that the next Democratic president will govern moderately and successfully? I think the odds are good that the Left will see the next Democratic presidency as payback time, and approach governing with an attitude of furious vengeance against the deplorables for disrupting the natural order of things on Election Day 2016.
No one has a crystal ball, but if you’re a striving Republican, and you can put your presidential ambitions on hold for another four to eight years, the path ahead may be easier — or at least easier than taking on an incumbent president in a primary when nine out of ten Republicans feel extremely emotionally invested in his success.
The ‘Toxic Environment’ Surrounding Bernie Sanders’ Campaign in 2016
There are two ways to look at the New York Times report that former staffers of the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign are beginning to publicly complain about mistreatment, sexual harassment, pay disparity, and “an overall toxic environment.”
Accounts like Ms. Di Lauro’s — describing episodes of sexual harassment and demeaning treatment as well as pay disparity in Mr. Sanders’s 2016 campaign — have circulated in recent weeks in emails, online comments and private discussions among former supporters. Now, as the Vermont senator tries to build support for a second run at the White House, his perceived failure to address this issue has damaged his progressive bona fides, delegates and nearly a dozen former state and national staff members said in interviews over the last month.
And it has raised questions among them about whether he can adequately fight for the interests of women, who have increasingly defined the Democratic Party in the Trump era, if he runs again for the presidential nomination in 2020.
In an interview Wednesday night on CNN, Mr. Sanders said he was proud of his 2016 campaign and attributed any missteps with staff members to the explosive growth that was sometimes overwhelming. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we did everything right, in terms of human resources,” he told Anderson Cooper.
“I certainly apologize to any woman who felt she was not treated appropriately, and of course if I run we will do better the next time,” he said.
Asked if he knew about the staff complaints, he said, “I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.”
Option one: Bernie Sanders and the top men around him really were oblivious to an atmosphere of harassment, ignored complaints, and generally believed that their credentials as self-proclaimed feminists freed them of any obligation to ensure that the women on the campaign were being treated fairly and appropriately.
Option two: The kind of women who are likely to volunteer to work on a campaign for a candidate like Bernie Sanders are naturally more inclined to interpret interactions with men as harassment. Having consumed endless accounts of men as sexual aggressors, agents of the patriarchy, and licentious abusers eager to use positions of power as leverage for sex, they will see many innocuous or friendly interactions as a major scandal and injustice.
For those who see sexism, it’s worth noting that Sanders’s past behavior hasn’t always thrilled women. Besides his infamous op-ed from long ago about people’s sexual fantasies, he wrote in 1969 that sexual repression causes breast cancer; he was rather snide and condescending to his 1990 gubernatorial opponent, Democratic governor Madeleine Kunin; and he irked Hillary Clinton supporters in 2015 when he accused her of shouting. (You may have noticed that Sanders doesn’t always use his indoor voice.)
Separately, while different political campaigns will have different atmospheres, my sense had been that quite a few campaigns featured short-lived relationships that often turned into messy affairs. Take groups of young men and women into a high-stress environment, have them work well into the night in offices and an endless series of cheap hotels in Iowa and New Hampshire, add alcohol, and . . . surprise! People start hooking up.
Shutdown Theater Continues
Today the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives . . . and the federal government is still in a partial shutdown. Back on December 21, I wrote:
I guess the plan is to have a long shutdown, put the squeeze on as many federal workers as possible, and hope that the federal workers pressure Democrats to throw Trump a bone and approve a few billion in funding for the wall. But if you’re a Democratic lawmaker, the consequences of the government shutdown have to get really bad before they get worse than the consequences of surrendering to the president on funding for the border wall.
We’re in the twelfth day of the government shutdown. And apparently the pressure on Democrats is nowhere near enough to force concessions:
A White House official said they asked Democrats during a meeting Wednesday with President Trump if they would agree to go higher than their current line of $1.3 billion for border security funding if he agreed to sign a short-term extension.
But Democrats would not signal that they would.
“This is going to go on for a while,” the White House official said.
ADDENDUM: I have no idea who Daniel Black is, but apparently he believes I’m not capable of writing something without Hugh Hewitt’s help.
My first real journalism job was at Congressional Quarterly, back in the late 1990s, where I summarized legislation and covered votes on the floor of the House. (The great Julie Hirschfeld Davis tried to teach me how to be a good reporter and I absorbed very little of it.) Then I had a short but fun ride on the dot-com rollercoaster of Policy.com, IntellectualCapital.com, and Speakout.com, where the proprietor and lead columnist Pete duPont, the former governor of Delaware and presidential candidate, once asked whether I had been dropped on my head as a child. (I’m pretty sure he was joking.) I spent three years at States News Service, where I covered Washington for papers such as the Boston Globe, Bergen Record, Bangor Daily News, Lewiston Sun-Journal and a bunch of others. (The Globe used States News Service to cover the stuff their Washington Bureau didn’t want to cover, like fisheries regulations and right whale migration. I called it “the seafood beat.”( John Aloysius Farrell and
Nina Easton are probably horrified at what a right-wing maniac I’ve become, but back then they trusted my reporting and taught me a lot.) On July 2, 2001, I asked a question of George W. Bush in the Oval Office when he and Dick Cheney met with Bret Schundler, who had just won the GOP primary for governor in New Jersey. And this is all before I started freelancing for National Review in 2002, and came on full-time to write the Kerry Spot in 2004, and went off to Turkey in 2005, and then the three books, and the CPAC Journalist of the Year Award and the Buckley Award and . . . anyway, enough bragging, you get the idea. I’ve been writing for a living for more than 20 years now.
And this punk thinks I can’t write something on my own? Who the heck is he?